Well, that was a week of unparalleled misery, quite frankly – topped off by Thing 3 testing positive for Covid on Thursday. Thing 2 was off with the dreaded corona the week before last, I was knocked for six by labyrinthitis (which is not, sadly, a surfeit of David Bowie’s startling trousers) and now Thing 3. Enough already!
Labyrinthitis is a definite -1,000,000/10, do not recommend. It was so horrible I didn’t pick up a crochet hook for a week, or even a book for several days. That bad. NHS 111 recommended taking something called Buccastem, which is supposed to relieve nausea and vomiting related to migraine, and other people recommended Stugeron which made things infinitely worse. A tweet from a lovely museum person crediting my blog from a few weeks ago with making her feel reassured about her upcoming colposcopy made me cry, but so did the lovely Norwegian postal system’s Christmas advert celebrating 50 years since Norway decriminalised same-sex relationships.
It was Wednesday before I started feeling semi-human again, and Friday before I felt safe to go out of the house. My Beloved did a most excellent job with laundry and keeping the Horde alive, and the furry fiends did an excellent job of keeping me warm. Friends were amazing at relaying Thing 3 home from school, which at least we don’t need to worry about this week as he’ll be off with me isolating.
Lack of new output does, however, mean I can share a piece I finished a while ago but which only got handed over this week – despite the fact that I have seen Heather several times. We were supposed to have a ‘Grumpy People’s Supporters Club’ night out on Friday (well, they did, I stayed on the sofa watching Cowboy Bebop): the last time we saw each other all together was on the hen night back in June! The pattern can be found here and the seller was kind enough to offer to chart the names for me to personalise it as well. I’m told the bride liked it – she loves Art Deco and had a 1920s car to take her to the service, so it should be a good reminder of the day.
When I did manage to pick up a book again, it was with the intention of working through some of the digital shelf of shame on the Kindle – in the mood for something easy, I chose Colin Watson’s Flaxborough novels which were published between 1958 and 1982. Police procedurals which would probably be tagged with the awful ‘cosy mystery’ label these days, these are witty and terribly British, featuring the Viking-like Inspector Purbright and the eastern town of Flaxborough. I had three on my Kindle already and luckily the rest were cheap as I quickly got addicted.
Lying in bed unable to do anything meant I had a lot of time to do mental crafting, which is at least cheaper than the normal kind. I have a head full of ideas and no way to get to them, as my crafting space (OK, the dining room) is still full of stuff we haven’t put back after the heating was put in. My beloved has taken the opportunity to do small jobs upstairs while the place is already in chaos. I’m not saying I’m getting itchy fingers here but I have things that need making! Things 2 and 3 want new pants and there’s Christmas making to be done. This Hobbit Hole piece needs finishing, too: the pattern is by Vetlanka on Etsy. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on such a high count fabric, but the effect is so delicate.
I’ve taken the opportunity to set up a Facebook page for this blog as well, where I can sell the various bits and bobs I make that aren’t destined for gifts, at least from me. You’ll be able to find it here and I really need to take some photos to get things online! Watch this space.
Anyway, I must head off – there’s PCR tests to do and a book to get back to.
What I’ve been reading:
Speaking in Bones – Kathy Reich
Coffin, Scarcely Used / Bump in the Night / Hopjoy Was Here / Lonelyheart 4122 / Charity Ends at Home / The Flaxborough Crab / Broomsticks over Flaxborough / The Naked Nuns / One Man’s Meat– Colin Watson (Flaxborough series)
Sometimes you get handed a book, or a recommendation for a book, that a friend or family member has loved and you read it….and it’s okay. It’s not life changing, and you probably wouldn’t say it’s great, but it’s readable. There have been many books like that- and that’s fine, because there’s a lot of different authors and tastes in the world and as Terry Pratchett says many times it would be a funny old world if we were all alike.
Sometimes the book is so terrible you question why you’re so fond of that person.
Sometimes you recommend a book that you have absolutely loved to people you like and they think it’s….okay. Not life changing, not great but…okay. I find it’s best not to take these things personally as clearly those people are wrong, or just need to read it again properly, or aren’t in their right minds.
Sometimes a book has rave reviews, and/or a massive marketing budget, and shoots up the bestseller lists, and films are made of them starring people who you may or may not have heard of, and that’s fine too. Sometimes these are good books and terrible films, sometimes these are terrible books and okay films. Sometimes they are terrible books and you can’t bring yourself to watch the film.
Sometimes – just sometimes – you get given a book and it’s wonderful: it keeps you awake long after your bedtime and stays with you so you can’t wait to pick it back up in the morning. This can be for many reasons: the adventure, the need to know what happens next, the lyricalness of the writing, My recent read ‘Once upon a River’ by Diane Setterfield was one of these books. Others include:
Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon
Hearts in Atlantis and The Body – Stephen King
The Once and Future King – T.H. White
The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa
Ring the Hill – Tom Cox
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Nieffenegger
This week I have added another one to the list – a birthday gift from my colleagues but I detect the hand of my wild swimming colleague in this one. Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper, which is a journal kept over five years of wild swimming in West Country waters. It’s a poignant read: Roper took up wild swimming after a double mastectomy and built a community of swimmers around her, as well as becoming a key member of the Outdoor Swimming Society. Sadly she died five years later of a brain tumour, but she filled those five years with adventure and wrote about them in exquisite, immersive prose. I’ll be recommending this one to friends, but I might not lend them my copy….
There may be many more of these magical books on my shelves of shame, or lurking on my Kindle, and I really ought to get round to reading them. I always swear I won’t buy any more books until I have finished the ones I have (I know, I laugh too) and then the BookBub daily email comes in, or I find something wonderful in a charity shop, or someone recommends a book they have loved and suddenly there’s a new addition. Perhaps I need to make a reading resolution that every other book I read is one from the shelf…. that sounds more realistic, at least!
In the meantime, if I promise not to buy them, will you tell me which are your favourite books to recommend to people?
Trial and error, error, error
You would think that if you have sewed a neckband onto something the wrong way up that it would be a straightforward job to unpick it and put it on the correct way. This was not the case with the blouse hack of the McCalls 8104 dress, which I had to unpick three times before I worked out which way was the right way, and which bits I’d sewed together wrong in the first place. I also managed to sew the bodice and lower bodice pieces together upside down when I started it on Monday, so I am amazed I got it finished at all.
The lovely turquoise cotton fabric is from Higgs and Higgs, and I bought it with my birthday Amazon vouchers – I love the statement sleeves and the slightly fitted waist on it, and the fact that there isn’t a standing collar. I’m not sure what it is with sewing patterns, but every collar I have made is just too seventies – indie or big four, it’s a bit of an issue. I shall just have to learn how to redraft them.
In the name of sorting out my shed I have gone through the hundreds of sewing patterns (mainly free magazine gifts) with a view to handing them over to a friend who has just qualified as a DT teacher – if she doesn’t want them herself she can donate them to school! My August resolution is to have a good tidy up in the shed and donate anything I really won’t use to people who will make good use of them. Things 1 and 2 have just had their ears pierced, so Thing 2 has been making earrings and jewellery with one of her friends which is making a dent in the stash already!
I haven’t done a lot else, really – my sourdough starter has been in heavy use this week as Thing 3 has decided he really likes the bread, and with the discard I have made pizza (always a hit) and cinnamon rolls which were soft and delicious. I’ll definitely be making those again!
So that’s my week! I’ll be off now to do a bit of reading over lunch and then start constructing the jeans I cut out last week….
What I’ve been reading:
Wild Woman Swimming – Lynne Roper
Raising Steam/The Truth – Terry Pratchett
How to Sew Sustainably – Wendy Ward
The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook – Susan Briscoe
Visible Mending – Arounna Khounnoraj
Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee (Audible)
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Audible)
Regular visitors to my little corner of cyberspace will have spotted that I am a big fan of books and reading in general. I love fantasy, and magic, and supernatural thrillers; different worlds, sideways views of our own world, the idea that there are things we can’t see (and, in the case of Stephen King, that we don’t want to see). I don’t love it when some bright spark decides to take one of these books and turn it into a film or a TV series, unless they are people who can be trusted to do it properly. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I think, can be trusted with Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books, but the teams responsible for The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (from the novel by Susan Cooper) and Midwinter of the Spirit (from Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series) should never have been allowed near the productions.
I can almost imagine the conversation in The Seeker‘s production meeting: “Yeah, so we’ve got Eccleston as the bad guy and McShane as the wizard, right, but we gotta make it relevant to American kids, we can’t have another magic English kid, Harry Potter and all that, let’s make the kid and his family American, let’s transplant them to England, fish outta water stuff…”. Just, no. You killed the story. Suffice to say they didn’t get the go-ahead to film the rest of the novels.
Midwinter of the Spirit suffered from some of the same problems: the brilliant Anna Maxwell Martin cast in the main role was a great choice, but they hammered a long novel into a short series in a very heavy-handed way, losing a lot of the suspense and also – by choosing not to start the series with the first novel – a lot of the context. Shame, because these are brilliantly written, unputdownable books.
The one notable exception is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, possibly because by 1973 when the novel was published he was already an Academy Award-winning screen writer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Best Original Screenplay) and he also adapted the novel for the screen. It’s still one of my favourite films and books, and finding another fan almost always means finding a new friend. Not that having the original author on board is always a good thing, of course, because then you run the risk of making, say, eight long films from seven long books (I’m looking at you, J.K.Rowling, you and your ‘direct assistance’ in the screenwriting).
(As an aside, Twilight and The Vampire Diaries were actually better than the books but only because they could not have been worse. So it does work both ways. Sometimes).
It was with some trepidation. therefore, that I headed to BBC iPlayer this week to check out The Watch, ‘inspired by’ characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. BBC2 has the tagline “In a world where crime is legal, a group of chaotic misfit cops rise up to save their city from catastrophe. A punk rock comedy thriller inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.” The buzz on the Pratchett fan pages has been almost entirely negative. Outrage around the casting has been prominent: a woman as Lord Vetinari (Anna Chancellor)? A short person (Marama Corlett) as Angua? A tall person (Jo Eaton-Kent) as Cheery? A black woman (Lara Rossi) as Sybil Ramkin? Other than Carrot, who remains true to Pratchett’s vision, the casting producer has created a hugely diverse and entertaining ensemble. Richard Dormer, cast as Vimes, is guilty of gurning too much and perhaps too much comedy has been written in for him, but he was a good choice. Matt Berry and Paul Kaye are always good value, too.
Part of the outrage has also come from a fierce loyalty to Terry Pratchett and, latterly, to his daughter Rhianna. She very diplomatically tweeted that “It’s fairly obvious that The Watch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.” Den of Geek has more on the controversy here. Funnily enough, Good Omens wasn’t criticised in the same way, perhaps because Neil Gaiman is Pratchett-adjacent and David Tennant is similarly adored for his time as the Tenth Doctor. The news this week on hearing that a second series of Good Omens in in the works should probably have provoked outrage as there isn’t a book, but once you’re in the Pratchett family, you’re in and you can pretty much do no wrong.
Previous big-budget adaptations of the Discworld novels have tended to be by Sky, who filmed the first two novels as The Colour of Magic, then did Hogfather and Going Postal. These weren’t perfect in terms of casting, either, but also weren’t terribly revolutionary. Charles Dance was perfectly cast as Vetinari, Tim Curry made an excellent wizard. Sean Astin was OK as Twoflower but David Jason was utterly wrong for Rincewind (he did make a great Albert in Hogfather, to give him his dues). The problem with filming such beloved novels is that readers have a very clear vision of who they think would be the best actor for the role, and are vociferous on the subject. The constant ‘casting posts’ on the various fan pages are annoying in the extreme, so one learns the art of scrolling.
Suffice to say that none of the actors in The Watch have featured in any of these posts. Was this possibly a deliberate decision, in the sense of ‘we’ll never get it right, so let’s have some fun’?
So, I went into the series knowing that the production company had played merry hell with the storylines, the characters and the sacred Discworld canon. And, you know what? I really enjoyed it. I left my Discworld expectations back on Roundworld and went along for the ride. The writers have picked bits from any number of the novels, not just the Watch series: Soul Music, Guards Guards, Night Watch, The Light Fantastic, Thud! to name a few, and they really have had fun with them. Many of the puns have been lost, and the addition of a gloriously camp dance routine came a bit out of leftfield, but it’s still thoroughly bonkers, funny and sweet in places. It does look as if most of the filming took place in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, but you don’t get much more dystopian than that. The soundtrack is great, Cheery is an absolute delight, and the ending leaves it open for more….though as yet series 2 hasn’t been commissioned, sadly.
We’ve also watched Katla this week – gloomy, spooky and Nordic – and a 2018 series called Requiem, chosen because we like most things Joel Fry does.
What is there in this world that makes living worthwhile?
A surprise birthday present arrived this week from my lovely work colleagues, combining Pratchett, cross stitch and cats – three of my favourite things! I love getting handmade gifts and, believe it or not, it’s quite a rarity. I don’t know who made it but I LOVE it.
I also packed off the gift I couldn’t share last week: I could not get it straight in the hoop, so I gave up in the end. The pattern is by Climbing Goat Designs on Etsy.
This week I have been working on another gift, and another Totoro baby lovey – this time a commission. My cross stitch is on 18 count fabric and it’s getting to the point where I can’t see the holes in the fabric any more so may need to invest in one of those magnifying lights! Old age is creeping up fast…
This week I am looking forward to doing some delivery in schools, which I have really missed, and hopefully the sun will come out at some point!
See you next week
What I’ve been reading:
The Museum of Broken Promises – Elizabeth Buchan
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes – Ruth Hogan
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar
Guards, Guards – Terry Pratchett
Lundy, Rockall, Dogger, Fairisle – Matthew Clayton and Anthony Atkinson
Yesterday was my 48th birthday, and among the presents I requested from the various people who asked was an Ordnance Survey map of Chelmsford and the Rodings, and one of their Pathfinder books of circular walks. I bought another map (Chelmsford, Harlow and Bishops Stortford) with one of the Amazon vouchers I was given as well. Those of you who have ever been anywhere with me and experienced my sense of direction might wonder a bit at this, of course, as I am the adult who once got so hopelessly lost in Sainsburys in Whitechapel that I handed myself in at Customer Services and waited to be collected. I am also regularly flummoxed by Google maps on my phone: it’s all very well showing me where I am, but it still takes a few false starts, watching the direction the arrows are moving when I walk, to work out the direction of travel.
Still, you all know I love a good walk, so my thinking is that with the aid of these maps I can explore a bit more of my local area. North Weald sits on the border of both these maps, rather than conveniently in the middle, hence needing two of them.
I have a vague plan that for my 50th birthday I will walk the whole of the Essex Way over a series of weekends, in the company of whoever I can persuade to do various stretches with me. I have a couple of years to plan this adventure, fortunately! I have done some of the local stretches on training walks, and I am keen to do the rest. If I was the sort of hardy hiking person who could be bothered to carry lots of equipment on my back I might do it all at once, but that’s never going to happen!
I like marking big birthdays. I haven’t worried about my age since I was 27 and I cried all day as I was so old. Back when I was still in infant school in Cardiff our class teacher, Mrs Price, asked us to work out how old we would in the year 2000, and 27 was the answer: it felt such a long way away, and such a vast age to a six year old, that I never forgot it. No other birthday has ever felt so traumatic!
My 30th was a mad evening out in London with friends, where we did the Jack the Ripper walk after a few drinks in All Bar One at Tower Hill (chosen as it was formerly the Mark Lane underground station, and I am nothing if not a nerd). My 40th was a barbecue in the back garden, with a ball pool for the kids and surrounded by friends. So I am planning an adventure for my 50th: it’s a big birthday, so I ought to celebrate it by doing something interesting with people I like. Volunteers for future weekends on the Essex Way welcome!
Other gifts included yarn, rhubarb and ginger gin and books: you all know me so well!
There has, of course, been other things in my week: my second Covid vaccine, so I am now fully 5G enabled or something (I don’t care if it causes me to pick up Radio Caroline, quite honestly, as long as it means I can see my parents and sisters). It was the monthly sunset/full moon swim, and this month the moon was up but covered in clouds so I still didn’t see it from the lake. There has been lots of making, but nothing I can share yet!
There has also been a lot of reading: a book that had me grabbed from the first page, and which would have kept me awake into the early hours to finish it if the battery on my Kindle hadn’t died. Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield, was one of those 99p Kindle deals that’s been lurking on the virtual shelf of shame since then. I finally got round to it this week. It’s one of the best books I have read for a very long time – if you haven’t run across it already, go and grab it. History, magic, mystery, the Thames: what else do you need?
And now I must head for Tesco, as the cupboard is mostly bare and the Horde need feeding! Same time next week?
What I’ve been reading:
Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield
Madame Burova/The Keeper of Lost Things/Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel – Ruth Hogan
This week’s ramblings have been brought to you because I have been listening to the audiobook of Cider with Rosie, read by Laurie Lee himself: lush, sunshine-drenched prose, set in countryside not so very far from where I grew up in Monmouthshire. There are some books which, if you mention them to people of a certain age, elicit an instant response of eye-rolling and and ‘urgh, I hate that book, we had to read it in school, it’s so boring.’ It’s true, a terrible English teacher can ruin a wonderful book (equally, a good one can bring it to life: I’m looking at you, Mr Bradley, you and your passion for Jane Austen).
Prime candidates for this, at least for people of my generation, seem to be:
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
All of which are classics, of course, and I love them all, but ‘studying literature’ as opposed to just reading a book can really ruin it for people. Second-guessing what the author meant, analysing their intent in using this word or that, deconstructing poetry often means that you can’t see the story for the words, to paraphrase that famous saying about forests and trees.
My own GCSE texts included a story or two from Leslie Norris’s Sliding, which I still love, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and probably some other ones but, amazingly, none of those listed above featured – probably because of the move from O-level to GCSE the previous year.
A badly-chosen text can have the same negative impact: for me this was Graham Swift’s Waterland, set in the Fens and with content so far out of my sphere of experience as an A-level student that I couldn’t engage. Mr Mills tried his best, bless him, but it was hard going. Ten years later, I found myself spending a lot of time in the Fens around March and Ely, so I went back and read the book as an adult: it’s brilliant, frankly, but it took an understanding of the area and the concerns of an adult to understand it. My youngest sister had The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro as one of her A-level texts: my mum and I loved it, she didn’t – presumably for the same reasons I couldn’t get to grips with Waterland. It doesn’t matter how much you love books and reading, if you can’t engage with the content then you’re unlikely to enjoy it.
I suppose the point of teaching literature is to inspire a love of reading in children, but I do wonder occasionally who chooses the texts. Thing 1 is in her first year of GCSEs and is doing Macbeth and A Christmas Carol and doesn’t like either of them: she loves analysing text but hasn’t engaged with either of those. She’s just said that she likes book she can relate to: she read William Goldings Lord of the Flies before being given it at school and loved it.
I love reading, I don’t understand why they can’t just let us read it, they keep stopping us every five seconds to make us analyse why Lady Macbeth is a symbol of patriarchal society. What if he just liked Lady Macbeth? If they just gave me ‘The Outsiders’ or ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ I could analyse them in about five minutes cos I can relate to them.’
The school Things One and Two attend practise DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) so they are expected to have a book of their choice to hand at all times, and the teachers have door signs saying what their current book is as well. I love this idea, and it’ll probably go further to instilling a love of literature in children who aren’t growing up surrounded by books than if their first encounter with great books is stripping them into their component parts without ever getting to enjoy the stories first.
The year of the handmade gift
Back to a bit of crochet for the latest gifts: I made the ladybird a leaf sleeping bag, and also made this Totoro baby comforter. Both will be going off to a colleague whose wife is expecting. The ladybird is for his older daughter, as big sisters need a present too! It’s back to the cross stitch now, while I carry on listening to Cider with Rosie even though the sun has gone away again.
Another gift is with its new owner today – I have just this minute had a text message to say thank you, so happy birthday Gina! We have always had a resident fox at the Museum, with cubs most years, so this seemed like an apt present. The pattern is from MaxStitch.
I am off now to get on with things….see you next week!
I confess to being a little bit down as I write this, as – had it not been for some pandemic or other – I should be tapping away on my tablet, sitting in the garden of a farmhouse in sunny Pembrokeshire surrounded by my family, some of whom I haven’t seen for two years. Yesterday my mum and dad would have arrived from France, my far-away sister and brother-in-law and their children from Northern Ireland, my London sister from the other side of of the M25, and my beloved and I and the children from Essex. We’d be planning a day on the beach at Newport or Newgale, or a mooch around St David’s or Fishguard, making a stack of sandwiches and coffee and counting the windbreaks. At some point in the week we would have seen the extended Wales family of cousins and hopefully my beloved’s Welsh family as well. Instead, here I am in rainy Essex, suffering from mosquito bites after a bike ride on Friday (how do they bite through leggings? How?) and waiting for the kids to emerge from the tent demanding Sunday pancakes. I bear a strong resemblance to Tove Jansson’s Little My in temperament today.
Friday marked the end of the school year for Things 2 and 3, and for Thing 2 also her final year of primary school as she will join Thing 1 at secondary in September. The school organised a socially distanced leavers’ assembly on Friday morning, so they didn’t miss out on all the usual events: yearbooks, a chance to sign each other’s T-shirts (not while they were wearing them for a change!) and to see their friends. Thing 2 is not going to our local large secondary, and she won’t be in the same school as most of her little gang so it was quite a sad moment for her. I think the teachers have definitely earned their summer holiday this year (as they do every year, of course) but this year some won’t have had a break since February half term, and their heads are probably spinning with all the things they have had to adapt to – remote teaching and pastoral care, social bubbles, and much more. I have said this before but I really hope that people start recognising the amazing work teachers do not just this year but every year – and trust them to do what’s best for our kids rather than scapegoating them.
Thing 1 had a birthday last week – she was 14 – and despite a few wobbly moments of anxiety leading up to it I think she had fun. Two of her friends came over and they had a cake picnic in the park, frightening the local youngsters with their mad hair, and taking a lot of selfies. She had her undercut dyed pink on Friday – one of the good things about lockdown is that it’s allowed her to ‘experiment with her aesthetic’ (as she tells me) without the restrictions of school uniform requirements. It’s done wonders for her confidence, and I am loving the baby Goth look she’s developed – I have serious envy of her birthday-money shoes! My hands are still tinged with hot pink from the dye-fest – I did her older sister’s hair too, and forgot the gloves.
I was abandoned on Thursday by my walking buddy, who had a bad back. I went out solo and enjoyed the sunshine on a four mile ramble through the lanes and fields on one of my favourite routes past Dial House and North Weald Redoubt. The hedgerows and verges are now showing the fruits of the flowers from earlier in the season, and they’re alive with insects still – ladybirds and crickets, and so many butterflies (none of whom would stay still long enough to photograph).
There’s also a new set of wildflowers popping up – the bank of willowherb on the farm track is a luscious wall of pink, and the purple of thistles and vetch is lovely.
Back to the title – what’s that all about?
The Case of the Disappearing Nine Patch..
I’m a reader. A big reader. A REALLY big reader. One of the first things I did when I started uni both in Preston and in Aberystwyth and when I moved on to London and Essex later was to find and join the local library. I can sniff out a second hand bookshop or charity shop at a hundred paces. When I visit you, if you leave me alone in your living room I’ll be snooping your bookshelves. I am that person on your Zoom meeting who’s peering past you at the bookshelves. The joy of finding a fellow series fan is unbounded – meeting a fellow Pratchett fan in the wild, noticing a Rivers of London reader on the Tube, those who know the significance of the number 42. (The museum world is a good place to find these people, by the way). We be of one blood, you and I.
But the first series I really got into – I mean, really got into – was Nancy Drew way back in the early 80s. I read them all from the library, snapped them up on market stalls, bought them when they went on the discarded stock shelf. Classic Nancy – not the later series. One of my best sewing buddies was introduced to me first as ‘Ah, Alli likes Nancy Drew too – you two will get on really well’. (We do) I wondered what happened to them all when I left home and then a couple of years ago a younger cousin messaged me and asked if I wanted them back. Why yes, I said, the kids might like them.
Who was I kidding? *I* wanted them back. I wanted to read them all again. I wanted to immerse myself in the adventures of the titian-haired detective, her tomboyish friend George and Bess, the girly one. Cool coupes! Lawyer dad Carson! Ned Nickerson, the handsome boyfriend! Honestly, that girl could not go anywhere without falling over a clue, a secret, a mystery of some kind, which she would solve with her loyal girlfriends and her brilliant deductive skills. I never trip over mysteries – except the old ‘where did all the money go this month’ one that we all encounter once we hit adulthood.
So just as soon as I finish my current series, I am opening up that box of delights and taking a trip back to my childhood.
That sort of childhood passion doesn’t really go away, of course, and I still have a sneaky fondness for ‘girl detectives’ though they (and I) are much older now. I’m currently working my way through the wonderful V I Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky. I first encountered VI at uni, where I was reading American Studies and Indemnity Only was one of the texts on a unit called ‘Images of the City in the American Mind’. VI is a tougher, more streetwise version of Nancy, who fights for the underdog against corporate America. The joy of Kindle is that I don’t have to wait for the library to reopen, of course, to catch up on the later ones.
VI opened up a world of grown up ‘girl’ detective novels – I won’t go into them all in detail but here’s some of my favourites:
Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton. I am heartbroken that the author died before ‘Z’ was published.
Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich. Brilliant cast of comic characters.
Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths (and an honourable mention for her Stephens and Mephisto books too)
Rev. Merrily Watkins by Phil Rickman. Set in Herefordshire, so makes visits home a bit spooky at times.
Kate Shugak novels by Dana Stabenow. Alaska! Moose! Bears!
Mentions also for Dr Temperance Brennan, Bubbles Yablonsky, Trixie Belden, Jimm Juree and Precious Ramotswe.
I don’t limit myself to girl detectives, of course, but my heart will always hold a sneaky place for these feisty, clever, quick-thinking females.
Their male counterparts will have to wait for another day, but will probably include Harry Bosch, Marcus Didius Falco, Brother Cadfael, Dave Robicheaux, John Rebus, Dr Siri Paiboun, Bryant and May, DI Thomas Lynley, and Richard Jury. Perhaps detectives and their sidekicks are a whole other topic…
If they come with a side-order of the supernatural, so much the better! I’d better come back to that one as well.
Where did that nine patch disappear to?
It hasn’t disappeared at all, really – it’s the name of the quilt block I ended up using this week. Its not one from the book I mentioned last week, or any of my quilt pattern books, but one that popped up on my daily digest from Bloglovin’.
I’d spent a couple of days trying to decide what to do with the blue charm packs I’d bought, and had pretty much decided to go with basic squares again. I discarded the brighter blue solids and some of the prints, as they didn’t quite fit, so I was left with teal, candy blue, buttermilk and buttercup for solids. I still wasn’t entirely happy with the basic layout so I didn’t start to stitch them together – and I’m glad I didn’t! So I grabbed some of the leftovers from the row layout and did a test block, then abandoned the rows entirely in favour of these nine-patches.
Since each row had been sorted for colour already, I started to build the nine-patches from the rows, making sure I had one of each solid colour in the block with five different print patches. I ended up with 20 blocks, which I trimmed to 12″ squares before stitching them together to make the final quilt top. Some of the patches had directional prints which limited which way up they could go (in my head, anyway).
I really like the way this has come together. It needs a border as it’s not quite wide enough, but I think I have enough neutral solids left to make one, and it’ll need to be backed and quilted before it’s finished. I’ll be backing it with a large curtain I picked up in a charity shop ages ago, so I won’t need to piece a backing.
This week I am going to finish the commission dolls, try open water swimming with friends, try some more drawing, and try not to feel too out of sorts about not being in Wales. At least school is over…
See you at end of week eighteen.
What I’ve been reading
V I Warshawski series (only 1 more to go!) – Sara Paretsky
Last Act in Palmyra – Falco series by Lindsey Davis