Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac

Edith finds herself at the Hotel du Lac, on the shores of a Swiss lake, having been advised by her friends to go away and think about things for a while. The reasons she needs this break are revealed as the book progresses.

Edith is a serious, woman, not yet married, who find herself in a hotel with a cast of characters she enjoys watching. We have a mother and daughter, Mrs Pusey and Jennifer who are hopelessly devoted to each other, the charming Mr Neville, and Mme de Bonneuil and her little dog. Edith is a romantic novelist and decides to use her expulsion from her social circle to finish her next book, but the words won’t flow. Instead she starts to mope about, and so Mrs Pusey decides she needs taking out of herself.

The prose is wonderful, there are very sly observations on the characters and the small talk is painfully accurate. It isn’t a fast paced read, but then it doesn’t need to be. I found myself slowing the pace to reflect the setting, a slightly old fashioned and snooty family run hotel.

This book came in for a lot of criticism when it won the Booker Prize in 1984 when many thought that The Empire of the Sun should have won. I haven’t read The Empire of the Sun, so can’t comment. What I did like about this book is the theme that a solitary life, when chosen knowingly, is a fine life.

Photography Sunday #3: Where I Talk to a Cow and Nearly Fall in a Ditch

It was pretty chilly here at Fennell Towers this week, it has been as low as -6C, which for the South East is darn nippy. Despite the cold, it has been sunny, with beautiful blue skies, so with several layers on, plus some gloves and a bobble hat* I went for my daily walk in the woods. It. Was. Freezing.  I am nothing if not intrepid, and so I pressed on, camera in (cold, gloved) hand. 

There was a low hanging mist still and I got this nice general shot of the woods with the sun breaking through the trees. 

Foggy Woods//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

In the woods are a herd of highland cows which graze and keep everything under control. They were close by, so took a photo of this handsome chap. When I walk in the woods during the day, I don’t often see anyone else, and so tend to assume that I am on my own. Imagine dear reader, if you will, there I am, taking some photos of the cow. As a photographer you want to make your model feel relaxed and I was chatting to the cow, only to realise that six feet away was a couple, looking at me like I had gone mad. I brazened it out with a cheery “good morning!” and went on my way.

Moo//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Having got a good distance and some trees between me and the couple who now thought I was potty, I came across a ditch with some frozen water in it. The water had made some lovely patterns. I took this shot, balanced precariously on the side of the ditch, not entirely sure the ground was solid. Can you imagine what those people would have thought if they had rounded a corner and seen me sprawled in a ditch having been talking to the cow minutes earlier? I am sure they would have assumed I had been on the orange squash…

Frozen Puddle//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

After the ditch shot I decided to head home, as my fingers were turning blue. On my way I saw this toy rabbit tied to a lamppost. I have titled this shot “Lost Bunny”. I considered calling it “Lost Bunny Tied To Lamppost”, but decided that was too much, it is always better to give the viewer somewhere to go with their own interpretation, don’t you think. 😉

Lost Bunny

*A bobble hat is an essential piece of photography equipment

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

26890-img

Today I am with Andy Barber, a DA, whose son, Jacob, may or may not have killed his classmate by stabbing him in the chest and leaving him in the woods.

This is the book I am really struggling with. I am about 100 pages in and frankly I just don’t care one way or the other who did what, when and why. I will struggle onwards as it is a book club read. Has anyone read it? Does it get better?

By all accounts William Landay has written two other very well received books, so there is hope!

– Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

b47c1-img

The Moving Finger is a Miss Marple mystery. Well, almost. Miss Marple does appear, mostly drinking tea and knitting and mumbling on about this person and that she is reminded of. To be honest, it would have worked as a plot without her.

The true stars of the book are Jerry and Joanna Burton, a brother sister who have moved to the small town of Lymstock. Jerry was a pilot in the war and is recovering from serious injury, and the pair thought that the quiet life in a small town would help his recovery. Anyone who has lived in a village or small town knows full well there is no such thing as the quiet life in these places, and that’s certainly true of Christie’s fictional world.

No sooner have they got rid of the last packing case and found the kettle, they start to receive poison pen letters accusing them of not being brother and sister, but lovers living in sin. Being Londoners and therefore far more sophisticated than the locals, as far as they are concerned, they burn it and think no more about it. The trouble really starts when it transpires everyone is receiving this nasty letters, and Mrs Symmington, the solicitor’s wife commits suicide after receiving one. Not long after their maid is found dead too.

The murders seem to put a metaphorical spring back in Jerry’s step, and he sets out to uncover the wrongdoer.  It truly is a tangled web, and the culprit isn’t that easy to spot. I liked Jerry and Joanna very much, far more than I liked Tommy and Tuppance, and as with all Christie’s best works it has that juxtaposition of comfy English country life and cold blooded murder.

I remember this story from the marvellous BBC adaptations with Joan Hickson, but not sure how many will have heard of it otherwise. It’s a hidden gem.

Photography Sunday #2: The Photography Course Commences!

We are off and running! The Hampshire School of Photography 1 year foundation course has officially started. On a chilly evening last week, I packed up my camera and pitched up at the local community centre to meet my new classmates. What a lovely bunch they are too. We range in photographic experience from a couple of decades to “just opened the box of my new camera at Christmas”.

Anstey's Cove, Devon Anstey’s Cove, Devon

The course has been developed and is lead by Kevin Ahronson, top professional photographer and all round good egg. After the obligatory course introductions* Kevin took us through the basics of operating a Digital SLR out of the Auto mode. Having done a bit of photography, none of this was new to me, but it is always good to hear the information again, as knowing the basics well is the key to everything else.

I always think that photography is a very odd blend of the ultra technical, with lenses, focal lengths and exposure times, with the purely artistic and creative. Which makes it very inclusive, you can take joy from photography in whatever way you like.

Now comes the slightly daunting part… the homework. We have a few weeks to go away and take some photographs to practise the skills Kevin taught us in this session. We get a personal 1:1 mentoring session with him and our shots will be critiqued. The critique part of this whole experience, is I think, going to help me the most, although I am hoping Kevin doesn’t turn into the photographic equivalent of Simon Cowell with a red buzzer. On Friday I morphed into Hermione Granger and planned my shots. Yesterday saw me hunched over my camera doing my homework in the hope of getting a gold star from Kevin. In fact I wasn’t very happy with the results for one shot, so took it again. I’m glad I took them yesterday, it’s raining cats and dogs here today, and the light it terrible. Listen to me, talking about the quality of the light and re-taking shots. I’m an artist Dahlings! I may start lounging about the place, and having an occasional rant like an 1930s artistic Christie character.

I am looking forward to seeing what my classmates photograph. I have a feeling we will all interpret the brief very differently.

Signing up for a course for a whole year is quite a big decision, but after the first session know I am going to have a fantastic time, and my photography should improve too.

* Whilst he asked us to introduce ourselves, thankfully we didn’t have to do any icebreaking exercises involving building the Great Pryramid of Giza out of paperclips and rubber bands. Why do courses make people do that? Those exercises just make me grumpy. 

The Great Blogging Editorial Crisis of 2017

We are a mere 13 days into 2017, and already I am having a blogging editorial crisis. My complete lack of blogging last year due to important things has resulted in an enormous backlog of book reviews to be written and posted. Regular bloggers will exclaim, “Worry ye not! This means you have spare reviews for when you don’t have time to write one, keep them in the box for later.”

Backed up book reviews...
Backed up book reviews…

Well, that’s all well and good, but many of these books are festive reads… Publishing festive reads in January just looks tardy and has that feel of left over Christmas pudding that sits in the fridge until someone cracks and feeds it to the birds. I suppose I could publish them in July to show just what a rebel I am, but quite honestly, Harrods will have beaten me to it by opening their Christmas shop in June. Perhaps I’ll just hold them for next Christmas, and regale you with my more recent reads instead. 

I have read a couple of really good tomes in the last couple of weeks. My current read is proving to be less of a page turner than I hoped, but I shall press on as it is a book club read. It may get better you never know, but so far I have tidied my office, done some washing and swept the leaves in the garden to avoid reading it. It has to go back to the library soon, so this weekend I have vowed to finish it. It also possible that I may have had a sneaky visit to Mr B’s, and possibly purchased one or two literary items that I am desperate to read, so I can use that as a bribe to finishing the current book. I can’t start the new ones until I have finished this one. It’s like bribing a child to eat their greens in order to have dessert isn’t it? Honestly, the maturity of my mind is a worry. 

What are you reading at the moment?

 

Photography Sunday #1: The Patience of The Delightful Mr F

 

As you may recall from this post my obsession with photography as been reawakened and next Wednesday I am starting a year-long photography course with the very talented Kevin Ahronson from the Hampshire School of Photography. My excitement levels about this course have reached a level only previously attained by a trip to Mr B’s. Strong words indeed.

From Fuji UK - Fuji X70 From Fuji UK – Fuji X70

I have discovered that The Patience of the Delightful Mr F is pretty much limitless, as I have had my head in the manuals for my cameras and glossy photography books* for the last several weeks.   I have also taken to carrying my camera everywhere. I used to rely on my iPhone, but the purchase of a Fuji X70, has changed that, and now I can get high quality images with an easy to carry teeny-weeny camera.

The only real way to get better at photography is to do it.  I am hoping that over the next 12 months I can develop my technical skills as well as start to get to grips with my own personal photographic style**.  After 2016, which frankly was a bit of a slog on many fronts, I am finding photography rather invigorating.  So, for now (or until change my mind or get bored), Sunday is hereby declared as Photography Sunday on the blog. Like an annoying relative back from a mundane holiday,  I shall regale you with my photographs. You have been warned.  Lets start as I mean to go on with a few shots from Devon

2016-12-31 - Greenway Walk19-//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js2016-12-31 Torquay Street94-//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsPaignton//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

*They are so pretty aren’t they? They also have the added benefit of making me look like an artistic intellectual. Appearances are so deceptive.

** I am an engineer and therefore have no sartorial style to speak of.