What’s on my bookshelf – Agatha Christie

 

Recently I’ve had an idea for a new series of blog posts and today is the first one. Welcome to “What’s on my bookshelf?”

I’m going to photograph and talk about individual bookshelves around my home. I’m already stretching that plan with this first post as the books I am going to tell you about are spread over several shelves, in fact an entire bookcase. But here we go.

When I was a little girl every other Thursday evening we went to the library. I looked forward to it all week. In those days – before the library was renovated in the 1980’s, it had two very separate sides. If you went straight in from the door you entered the children’s section, if you turned right and went past the circulation desk, it was the adult section and that was strictly forbidden territory. Or at least I felt it was so.

In “my” room (for I felt very possessive about the library) there were the low picture book bins with a little table and chairs, then shelves with juvenile non-fiction books, (I soon learned to trove those for my special interest research into important things like secret code breaking and nature crafts skills) to the right of that were the shelves of juvenile fiction novels. It was there I truly discovered my own world of adventures. I fell deeply in love with the stories of girls who were brave and solved mysteries.

I worked my way though those books over the space of a few years. It was a different time and I was a mostly obedient girl so I never really ventured into the adult section into which my parents disappeared. But at some point I did bravely step around the corner, past the card catalogue and started to scan the A – C fiction shelves. I think I expected the librarian to tell me I was too young and not allowed, but she never did. As I worked along that first section I was too short to see the very top few shelves but luckily it was along the very bottom row I discovered a shelf filled with a single author. It was a treasure trove of Agatha Christie. The memory of exactly where those books were, and how I knelt on the ground and marveled at how many titles there were is clear in my mind. I made a pact with myself that I would read them all. In fact it was not even close to the entire Christie back list, but I had no idea at the time how prolific she was. I was allowed to try out one or two. I wish I could remember which ones I read first but I really believe I started with Miss Marple, maybe the librarian gently nudged me that way.

I’m not sure that in the jump from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple I completely understood all that was going on in the stories. Christie’s plots are a bit convoluted for a pre-teen, but I loved a good mystery, even if there was a disappointing lack of secret passages.

Over the years I regularly picked up paperback copies of my lovely Agatha at auctions, yard sales and second hand shops, and before long I had amassed a good collection. I did move on to read other writers, discovered the joys of a historical romance, lived for an entire summer in James Herriot’s Yorkshire, and methodically worked my way through the fiction alphabet.

I miss that library so much. It had alcoves of books on tall dark wood shelves that felt like little rooms, and a squeaky floor so you knew if someone was sneaking up behind you. I loved it with the kind of deep satisfaction that you don’t often find in life today. I’m sure it was in those stacks I determined my life goal of bookshelves in every room of my house. While I’m happy to report this is an achieved goal, I have drawn the line at the bathrooms, but only because the damp from the shower is horrible for the paper.

So these are my Agatha shelves. I have plans to re home them on to a proper book-case one day, but for now it s more important to keep them together. Is it sad that I take so much care to shelve them chronologically?

In truth I eventually worked in that very library – sadly after it was renovated – and a former librarian has to have systems.

I feel like Agatha was my jumping off point for adult fiction and is still a comfort read to this day. I loved that she wrote so many different things, short stories, plays, romance novels, different detectives (Tommy and Tuppence!) In my 20’s I was thrilled to get to see a production of The Mousetrap in Toronto.

Slowly I learned more about Agatha, the woman. The unanswered questions around her brief disappearance, her happy marriage in later life  to Max Mallowen an archaeologist. and their travels to the Middle East which became  a new set of locations for her novels.  I briefly dreamed of a career in archaeology. I read her biographies and even fiction about her life and of course I avidly watched all TV productions of any of her stories. There is so much to admire about her and so many ways to enjoy her stories.

In the 1960’s and 70’s  Fontana Books published a series of her novels in paperback with cover illustrations by an American artist, Tom Adams. The surreal and often macabre paintings sometimes give clues to the plots. I have quite an extensive collection of those. 

More recently my daughter gave me a graphic novel edition of Halloween Party. It does cover the high points of the story but misses some of the nuance.

I have tried to cull the doubles from my collection and keep it to one shelf unit, but I suspect I will still feel a thrill when I see her name below the little blue Fontana symbol as I eagerly check to see if it is one I have. I do spend a lot of time in bookshops and Goodwill.

Her plots may be dated, and many other writers have imitated her detectives so that even when reading the originals they can seem like a parody of themselves, but she rightly deserves the title of the Queen of Crime.

Many of you may not be able to understand my …obsession with collecting books – it certainly doesn’t stop with Christie – but those who share this book fever will get it entirely.

Until next time happy reading.

 

Book review – Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

 

I am a big fan of a good story. One that captures my attention, has at least one or two characters that I can identify with, and leaves me with a satisfying conclusion. I am happy to say I found all of those things in Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

I read her first book The Thirteenth Tale when it was released a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. In fact I had not only read it but later listened to it as an audio book.  However, her second book Bellman and Black, did not capture me at all.

Hearing good reviews of Once Upon a River I dove in and was immediately dropped on to the edge of the River Thames and I pulled up a stool in The Swan at Radcot ready for a good yarn.

One of the central themes to the book is the telling of tales and how the telling and retelling changes and molds them. The Swan has the reputation as the place to go for a tale and the regulars are suddenly thrown into the middle of a very perplexing story indeed.

On mid winters night the door flings open to reveal a man, grievously injured, with the body of a small girl in his arms, . The girl, whom many of them had assumed was a doll, returns to life a few hours later and the epic tale of the girl who died and lived again is gifted to Radcot.

The cast of characters are well drawn and though there are a lot of them, they remain clear individuals in my mind. Life on the river is woven into the story and the Thames is as much of a character in the novel as any other.

The child remains mute, the injured man recovers but is not her father as some supposed. In fact nothing is known for sure about who this child is or why she ended up dead in the river. Unraveling her story without her input is the rest of the tale and it takes as many twists and turns as the river itself.

Setterfield uses rich language to draw the reader through the year that follows. The landscape she describes so well is dead at mid winter and is alive again by mid summer. What was dead is alive again; life and death are everywhere.

Also throughout the book is the concept of family. What makes up a family and what responsibilities do the people within them have towards each other? How do love and loyalty bond people? How are bonds tested?

Like most good tales there are secrets, because when the reader knows something many of the characters don’t know it keeps the story exciting. And there are ghosts. But are they real or are they a creation?

The conclusion was as satisfying as I could have hoped for, those caught up in this tale can go on to live and tell the story for years to come. I expect, if the Swan was real and you asked for a pint today, it would come with the story of the girl.

As I read I could see this novel as a 3/4 part TV adaptation, I hope someone has snapped up the rights and does it justice. But before that happens, I know I will be reading (or listening) to it again.

 

A Room of One’s (My) Own

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Virginia Woolf is well known for pointing out the obvious – that creativity needs space to be free. She also mentioned money…but let’s deal with one thing at a time.

I just don’t think I truly appreciated her point until now, as I sit here in my own room.

It’s a space that has no other function except to serve my creativity. This room does not have to do double duty as a guest room or a shared family space, it is mine all mine. I fully acknowledge how lucky I am to have this space, though it took more than a few years to achieve, I am blessed.

 

 

So how did this miracle come about? Well, start with a large dry basement, a husband with incredible skills, a pinterest board full of plans, and more than a little effort.

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I was initially skeptical about this space, “I’m not a basement person.” I said, “I’ll feel cut off from the rest of the house”. But in truth, I am very happy with my hedgehog den. Rather than feeling cut off, I feel able to tune out of the chaos that is the rest of the world and focus on doing my own thing. I can have a project on the go, take a break to get a meal, and I don’t have to tidy anything up! It is all right there where when I return.

I do allow the rest of the family in…. there is a little comfy love seat for visitors.

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Being able to make the design choices has been great. I must say, my Hubby and I work well together when it comes to design. I come up with a basic idea and he either convinces me that it won’t work or gets right into making my dreams real.

I chose the colour based on a favourite mug, but have realized as I put all my fabric away, this is a colour that features often in my choices…

I knew I wanted a sitting space, crafting is as much about sitting and thinking as it is doing, and I knew I wanted lots of drawers. (they are in phase 2). He made the shelves super strong so they can take big tubs full of fabric, and he made all the shelves adjustable so I can easily move the around.

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All of these pictures are of the building and moving in period, there will be more finished pictures to come.

 

So now I happily fold and shelve material, dream of projects yet to come, and look forward to phase 2 – the counter tops and cupboards.

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And maybe go through a few inspiration books. (please ignore the waste basket!)

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Hedgehog Hill garden 2018 April 1st

Recently I’ve been watching “The Good Life” not the recent American series, rather the BBC sitcom from the mid 70’s. It was based on a husband and wife  who decide to try for a life of self sufficiency in suburban Britain. Of course they run a-foul (or fowl – Ha!) of everything from chickens that won’t lay to disapproving neighbours. It made for great comedy.

Years ago I watched a few episodes (before the days of the PVR so only when I was lucky enough to spot it in the TV Guide….remember that publication?) and I was desperate to have that kind of life. I wanted sheep and chickens and a big garden, real a life in the country. I think I had forgotten how much I yearned for that when it was only a pipe dream. But fast forward a couple of decades and here I am sitting on my dream and not utilizing as I once wanted.

Oh yes we garden, but not as much as we could. The sheep are a bit beyond our reach, but I’m still considering chickens….except for the cat who might consider them a perfect challenge. But I hope this year to roll up my sleeves and expand the good life here at Hedgehog Hill.

The six  main raised bed gardens are looking a bit forlorn.  we added lots of compost and mulch in the fall and I’m hoping they are in good shape for planting. I have some ideas about extending a small in-ground bed to the front of this photo to add some larger space crops like squashes. another bed is to be converted to more herbs.

Our herb drying was very successful last year and I’ve been loving adding them to cooking all winter. I’m considering branching into teas. Specifically chamomileThe front flower bed is mostly brown but there are a few signs of spring with Daffodils peaking through. they were covered in snow just a week ago.

We planted some garlic in big pots last fall. They seem to have survived the winter. I would still like to find a spot that we can put garlic permanently, but this was a temporary trial.

But most exciting of all are the little sprouting plants in the sun room. It’s been hard to know when to start things as winter has been lingering, but the temptation was too great.

Spring can’t arrive soon enough. I don’t think I’m ready for an off-grid hippy life, but I do long for those tomatoes from last year.

Word of the year – enough

So I missed posting last week. Migraine ugh.

One of this things I am learning as I get older is that you have to let shit go when you have a chronic condition like migraines. I have also learned to use the time wisely. When I am down for the day unable to do much I can still think, and dream, and plan. Focusing the mind on a future project is also good therapy.

But this is what I had planned to post.

Every year I like to choose a word. I’m not alone in this practice, it has become a sort of alternate to New Years resolutions and the eventual disappointment they can harbor.

I look for a word that both sums up where I am currently in thoughts and emotions, and where I hope the future year will take me.

In past years I have chosen words like  – joy – serenity – power -.

I don’t worry too much about aligning my life to the word. I’m sure the year I chose joy I also experienced sorrow. But my goal was to focus on the joy, look for the serenity, feel my inner power.

So that brings us to the word for 2018  – ENOUGH – .

I like it when my words come to me suddenly in a kind of bolt of inspiration. I think this is what happened to me this year. There was no question in my mind where I am at right now.

Telling yourself – I am enough – is not new advice. I certainly have not come up with a revolutionary statement. I think I am just ready for it to be true. Maybe it’s my age. Once past 50 you can truly let go of other peoples’ expectations – and some of your own. We all have those things we believe in our hearts that we fail at. If only I was tidier, if only I had spent more time on career goals, if only I worked harder…  I have come to a place where I don’t want to beat myself up anymore, I want to celebrate, and focus on what I am good at, what brings me joy and serenity, and nourishes my inner power. I finally believe  I am enough.

There is also a new understanding that – I have enough

I have never been a rich person; but I have never starved either. I have always had a home, and family, and friends. Those are the things that matter.

Of course there are still things that I want, changes I would like to make to my home, new friends and new experiences. But right now, in this moment it brings great joy and serenity to know, – I have enough

But there is a third part of my year of enough and I think it is one women are feeling all over the world.

I’ve had enough of this shit

The #metoo movement has opened the conversation that we need to have right now. It is not going to be easy, or comfortable. People will disagree or see some things in a different light that you do. You may question things you felt certain of. The world is shifting. It’s about time.

I don’t need to re phrase the call to action women, and supportive men, are talking about, because others will say it better. I hope this year will see a lot of changes and women will use their inner power to light up the world. That power is not new but millions saying it together may create something new.

Me too I’ve had enough of this shit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planners and Journals welcome 2018

 

No matter what you feel about New Years resolutions it is hard to not see this time of year as a new beginning. The holidays are such a busy time I was very grateful to take a week after it was all over to decompress and sit with my thoughts.

I have kept a journal all of my life and would recommend it to anyone. The process of recording your thoughts and impressions of the day can clear the brain and make room for new thoughts and ideas. I have also used my journal as a long term planning tool, a place for dreams. I would like to think that putting things on paper helps you manifest those dreams and can change your future.

Lately there has been a resurgence in planners, they are everywhere. Entire Pinterest pages, and Instagram accounts are devoted to beautiful, complicated books of art, stickers and washi tape. I must admit I have fallen down the hole that is pinterest  on more than one occasion.

I wonder though, at how in this age of digital everything there are so many paper options. I’ll fess up. As much as I love the digital world, I will never give up on paper. So maybe I can understand this draw to it. There is something about the feel of it, the process of pen to paper that will never loose it’s appeal.

 

I keep several planners, one for work, one for personal use and a small note book that I use to track my daily food, activity, and moods and habits. The older I get the more lists I need just to get through the day. I’m not sure if I should just blame that on my age or because we all have too much on our plates, but the planners are more than just tools. My personal planner has become one of those sticker, washi tape extravaganzas. The time I spend in the evenings adding the entirely unnecessary frills to my lists and plans is both soothing and a way to access creativity while still being useful.

Today was one of those beautiful winter days with brilliant white snow and blue skies and bright sun. We drove down to the beach, it was almost a busy as a summer day. Nothing like a bit of sun to drag hibernating Canadians from their dens.

 

 

 

Quaintly & Co Quintessentials box

Well HELLO Petal!

Lovely to see you again.

Where have I been?

Well hibernating for one, it was winter for a long time. Even though we did not get the mountains of snow we get some years, it still slows you down and cuts you off from the world.

So what was I doing?  Hanging out on-line and finding cool stuff to buy like …..drum roll……this!

 

So I stumbled across an ad for Quaintly &Co on Facebook. It immediately caught my eye as it was featuring the next installment as the “Union Jack box” and having a weakness for all things Union Jack, I had to have a peak.

http://www.quaintly-uk.com/

They are a British company that selects and curates a group of items based on a theme and deliver them to your door. (or as close as the post gets) There are many such companies out there shipping everything from dog treats and toys, to sock yarn, to beauty products. I have been tempted before, but this time I took a leap.

They offer different sizes and price points and have options so you can try the service out without signing your life away. I felt like I could trust them as a company, and happily I was proved right.

There is something a bit like Christmas waiting for a parcel to arrive with things you know you will like, but will also be surprised by.

And you know how much I love Christmas.

I was so excited to open it but I did hold back long enough to set up an “unboxing” video. I have even started a Mrs Murfins You Tube channel where you can watch the whole thing. Just click here  —->     https://youtu.be/aXqCtCJnbno

So lets look at what I received!

http://www.apatchy.co.uk/

So this came in 2 pieces, the makeup pouch and the removable patch. Its a great concept because to feel the back of the patch you would not think it would stick like Velcro…but it does. I say in the video that I would sew the patch on a denim jacket, but it was much easier than that! I just placed it on the pouch and it is firmly stuck, but it can also be removed and you could switch out for a new look. Clever!

It is lovely quality I know will be using this daily.

Next we had some little mugs and a magnet from John Lewis.

These are just the sort of thing I love to buy, though I do not have any in this espresso size. Very sweet and a nice addition to my collection.

The wee felt Union Jack heart is also something I would buy. It is from a maker called Bella and Roo.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/BellaandRoo?ref=condensed_trust_header_title_items

The bracelet is so tiny and fine, it is almost impossible to get a good picture, but it is a perfect addition to my growing collection of bangles I wear constantly. The teeny tiny charm is, of course, a Union Jack.

And finally a tea towel. What is more quintessentially British than a tea towel? It is actually easier to see the Union Jack in this shot than when it is up close as the words (all about tea) distract you. It says on the description card that this design was made especially for Quaintly $ Co so it is a bit special.

Over all I am very please with the contents of the box. It is a bit on the expensive side. Especially as they are “treat” items, but it is a nice idea for a birthday gift for someone who you know loves British stuff as much as I do. (hint hint Mr Murfin)

Next month is a Jane Austen Theme. I will be watching to see what other themes they come up with. I think this may not be my only purchase….