Thursday 11 October 2018

Stories & Shout Outs #17

One of the things I love about reading is the synchronicity that can happen sometimes. Last night I finished A Gentlemen in Moscow after a wonderful reading week in its company. This morning I started Frankenstein, which I thought was set in Europe somewhere, maybe Switzerland. It may still be, as I've only just tackled the four letters that begin the book. However our early epistolarian is writing from Russia no less, which has provided me with a lovely transition between my two books.

I also recently spotted the Personal Poetry Challenge thrown down by Karen @Booker Talk.

So I got to thinking that learning some poems by heart could be a) a good way to help keep my brain working and thus mitigate the potential of dementia and b) a means to encourage me to read more poetry.

It got me thinking. I have a number of snippets of poems under my belt. For instance every autumn I manage to get out at least one 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' and when I'm feeling harried and hurried I usually throw down a 'and miles and miles to go before I sleep'. It makes me feel close to my Pop. He grew up in the early 1900's and rote learnt numerous poems and odes that he could still recite just weeks before he died at age 84. He was very proud of his ability and didn't need much encouragement to recite. I particularly loved his knack for big words when reciting This is the Domicilary Edifice Erected by John (the much wordier version of This is the House That Jack Built) and I loved how he dared to stir up my sister when we were young with 'There was a Little Girl Who Had a Little Curl'.

I then had to learn large segments of the poems of Judith Wright and John Donne for my HSC exams, which I can still recall but not with confidence. More recently, I enjoyed learning about the six poems of Robert Frost that both boys studied for their HSC exams.

I have no way of fitting in another thing of any kind right now, but I love this idea and will tuck it away for future reference. If you'd like to join Karen in memorising William Wordsworth's sonnet Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 pop over to her blog.

One thing I always make time for though is Non-Fiction November with Katie @Doing Dewey! It's a lovely way to reflect on my year of reading non-fiction.

The 20th October is also time for the next 24 Hour Readathon. You can sign up here. The start time for Sydney is 11pm which means that most of my readathon will actually take place on Sunday the 21st.

Simon @Stuck in a Book reminded us that next week is time to go back in time with The 1944 Club. He and Karen host this biannual event where they encourage bloggers to read a book published in the same year.

I've been meaning to join one for years, but have managed to miss it every single time or failed to source a book from the appropriate year in time.

Any sort of book is welcome – novel, non-fiction, short stories, poetry – and any country or language, so long as it was first published in 1944!

This year I actually have a Maigret book on hand ready to go. Sign├Ę Picpus is #23 in the Georges Simenon ouerve. It has the added advantage of being a quick, easy read for me as well.

Grief and grieving has been front and centre of our family life this past year. The death of my much loved father-in-law has been hard. The sadness and sense of loss comes in waves. There's nothing new I can say about this that hasn't already been said or written before. However reading the words of others can sometimes provide solace or at least remind us that we're not alone, often when we need it most.

I think that's one of the reasons why we read - for those unexpected comments that speak to us across the page, like it was meant to be that we read that book at that particular time.

This week Shelf Love's review of Sabrina reminded me that "the way to get through grief is just to get through it" while reading Frankenstein reminded me that "nothing contributes so much to tranquillise the mind as a steady purpose - a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye".

We've certainly been keeping ourselves busy enough this year, but we're aware that the busyness is a way to avoid being consumed by our feelings. Engaging with our intellectual activities (work, blogging, reading) feels like a more positive way to use this busyness.

So, in memory of my dearly loved, poetry reciting Pop, who died in 1986, I will leave us with a poem. This is not one of the Wright's that I learnt at school, but given that I turned 50 earlier on this year, it seemed the most appropriate.

Turning Fifty

Having known war and peace
and loss and finding,
I drink my coffee and wait
for the sun to rise,

With kitchen swept, cat fed,
the day will quiet,
I taste my fifty years
here in the cup.

Outside the green birds come
for bread and water.
Their wings wait for the sun
to show their colours.

I'll show my colours too.
Though we've polluted
even this air I breathe
And spoiled green earth;

though, granted life or death,
death's what we're chosing,
and though these years we live
scar flesh and mind,

still, as the sun comes up
bearing my birthday,
having met time and love
I raise my cup -

dark, bitter, neutral, clean,
sober as the morning -
to all I've seen and known -
to this new sun.

Judith Wright


  1. What a lovely poem, thanks for sharing it. I wasn't familiar with it but it expresses so much of what I feel at my grand old age.

    1. It resonated with me too Marina - love the idea of tasting fifty in my coffee cup.
      JW would have turned 50 in 1965 so I guess she wrote this about then, which highlights how forward thinking she was with her environmental concerns as well.

  2. I will have to remember this poem for turning 50 in a few months when it is my turn. I know a few poems by heart, but not nearly enough and one of these days will try to rectify that. The beginning of your post absolutely brought to mind the scene in Desk Set where Katharine Hepburn is reciting "Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight" from memory. A great scene in a movie full of them.

    1. I'm thrilled that something I wrote brought a Katharine Hepburn movie to your mind - my day has been made!
      I'm sure I've seen Desk Set at some point, but sadly, I don't remember that scene.

  3. Sometimes I have to let a blog post sink in for a few days....and this was one of them.
    Last year I commented on my post 23 Nov 2017 about losing somebody dear to us.
    We don't realize we were making memoires back then when times were better...festive family get-to-gethers
    …we were just having fun. When some leaves you life there's no one to share your memories anymore. They become like secrets. I must mention the new book by Leigh Sales 'An Ordinary Day'. My review (NF) was so short on #AWW2018 because the book had such an impact on me...I was at a loss for words. But every day I think about that book...every day. Leigh Sales managed to make me realize that if you look around your 'ordinary day' hindsight they are nothing but miraculous. Life can change in an instant. As I watch the news this past week with a devastating Hurricane Michael...people's homes are blasted from the face of the earth. If you are feeling contemplative....'An Ordinary Day' is worth put life into perspective for me.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Nancy.
      Sounds like the Sales book had a huge impact on you - I'll have a closer look at it myself now. I've been watching the scenes from Indonesia and Japan recently, with a similar reaction - how quickly life can change for so many & it's all completely out of your control. All you can control is how you react to the changed circumstances.
      Grief is like that too.
      We were very conscious of giving my f-i-l a funeral that he would have loved (if he wasn't in it himself!). It was important for us to honour his life.
      We've now needed this slower time of packing up, cleaning up etc to come to terms with our loss. But at some point soon, the estate will be settled and this process will change again. The way through grief is to just get through. This is how we're getting through.

    2. Bless you Nancy - mwah!

      I also remembered that A Gentleman in Moscow highlighted how Russians used to honour the dead with a special 10 yr anniversary gathering. It sounded like a lovely cathartic thing to do.

  4. ******Spoiler alert******
    do you think the Count & Anna ended up in America with Sofia?

    1. I'd like to think that they do. I understand that the Count wanted to see his home one more time and to share that with Anna, but they were both so devoted to Sofia (& she to them) that I cannot believe that they were never going to see each other again.


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