Alexander Averin

Wednesday 29 December 2010


Waiting for the Thaw - Dina Gregory

Dear Diary,

It is warmer, the air is kinder on my face and I can breathe easier. At kast the thermometer is several degrees above zero.  We are lying in a bowl of fading frost, still mostly white, but all around is fog, pale white like smoke and the hills are completely hidden in the mist.  There is hardly any green to be seen though there are a few patches to be found underfoot.  There is a slow, slow thaw which suits me and the river fine, we do not to be overwhelmed by a flood but the countryside seems all of a mess, it is like sitting in the aftermath of a party thrown during Christmas when everything was just-so, still, snow-covered and beautiful.

Only days ago every dwelling had its own  Christmas decorations hanging from the eaves, long long icicles, (some of which were a danger to folk walking beneath them); at night there were crystals on the ground to light the way, everything was laced in white, the bare winter trees were etchings on the horizon and all the lowland trees had soft cotton wool on their branches. The road river bridge wore stoles of snow (as one of my readers so aptly described it having seen a photo on my blog). Even the moon put on her best show and made for us a magic.

Now we are in the slightly sad, limbo-days, some folk are back at work but not many and there is still New Year to look forward to before everything is Back to Normal.  A lot of us are feeling stir-crazy for it feels as if we have been cooped up far too long having been snowed in for weeks even before Christmas arrived.  At least I have more energy today as it is warmer and I am not striving to keep myself and the cottage warm.  It is no longer icy underfoot, just soft and a bit squelchy so I have enjoyed a walk with the dogs. Being outside lifts the spirits, I recommend it.

I have two poems for you today that I heard on Radio 4's Today  programme on Wednesday.  Colin Firth was the stand-in editor and he did a grand job, there was so much of interest.  Especially  fascinating was how research has shown that our brains are different according to our political leanings...... to the left or the right.  This ties in with a book I have just read by a much-loved writer Gill Edwards called Conscious Medicine. This is basically about how everything is energy including our thoughts.   I will be blogging about this at a later date.

Colin Firth also included two poems in the programme, both of which were excellent.

Here is an audio link to the beat poet Haroon Anwar's poem Western Child; do take the time to listen if you can.

And below is The British by that great poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

The British

Take some Picts, Celts and Silures
And let them settle,
Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.

Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years
Add lots of Norman French to some
Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.

Mix some hot Chileans, cool Jamaicans, Dominicans,
Trinidadians and Bajans with some Ethiopians, Chinese,
Vietnamese and Sudanese.

Then take a blend of Somalians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians
And Pakistanis,
Combine with some Guyanese
And turn up the heat.

Sprinkle some fresh Indians, Malaysians, Bosnians,
Iraqis and Bangladeshis together with some
Afghans, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Japanese
And Palestinians
Then add to the melting pot.

Leave the ingredients to simmer.

As they mix and blend allow their languages to flourish
Binding them together with English.

Allow time to be cool.

Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future,
Serve with justice
And enjoy.

Note: All the ingredients are equally important. Treating one ingredient better than another will leave a bitter unpleasant taste.

Warning: An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain. Give justice and equality to all. 

Benjamin Zephaniah

Wise words eh?

And blessings today?

It is warmer.

The birds are happier.

A pleasant surprise in my post box.  I received a Christmas card from a fellow blogger all the way from Atlanta in Georgia which contained the same lines that I put on my header a few days ago.  Synchronicity at work again.  
Synchronicity.......... that window into the Divine....

I have five more days holiday.

I have nothing to do today but dream........

Bye for now,

Sunday 26 December 2010

Just a poem

My daughter sent me this poem by Giacomo Leopardi

The Infinite  

It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgerow here, that closes out my view,
from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here, in thought,
I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.
When I hear the wind, blowing among these leaves,
I go on to compare that infinite silence
with this voice, and I remember the eternal
and the dead seasons, and the living present,
and its sound, so that in this immensity
my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet
to me in this sea.              

Thursday 23 December 2010

Monday 20 December 2010

Winning Poem

If you would like to see my deepening snow pictures which I took yesetrday they can be found on my Photo Blog here.  The snow is ever more deepening as it is snowing again today.

I love to post wonderful poems and this one below written by Peter Swales is the winning entry in my writing group's very first annual literary competition which was judged by the poet Ruth Bidgood.   The standard of entries was very high but this is a very worthy winner.  I find it very soothing.   See if you agree.

Once More Amongst the Thunderheads

Once more amongst the thunderheads-
the heavy air, the
shallow shouldered hills.
A ‘ton dawn.
A Shropshire morning.
It is in the upstroke that the light catches;
each shivering stem,
minute-to-minute, whispering.
Swathes of wind roar across,
in circling waves.
Brief pillows of air indent the gold-
flying shadows darken the path,
from here to the hill,
from the hill to here.
We wait in the shadow of a scarred sycamore,
edging the field like scarecrows.
We are criminals to this passing car,
strangers in the quiet rural world.
But we steal nothing-
take only solace,
comfort, in that unborn mound, the reckoning hill.
It has lived with us for as long as we knew;
brothers before the mountain,
in the nodding end of summer, becoming old.

© Peter Swales

Saturday 18 December 2010

Cliches abound and a bit of pondering.

Dear Diary,

This post contains cliches.
If you’ve nothing better to do you can spot and count them up as you go along.

I keep thinking about the Rumi poem I posted yesterday (see extract below, full poem is in previous post).  It is so simple yet profound but only says what I have always suspected, that this life is only one dimension of existence, many more are hidden from us, all on different planes.   Rumi lived in the 13th Century, I find that fact amazing. The extract Mark picked from it and left in the comments is one that will stay with me also.

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief

I too wish I had written it.

Life certainly has dreamlike quality to it at the moment and it is one from which I am reluctant to wake.  I know this wintry weather has many downsides and my heart goes out to those adversely affected but to me in my own little bit of dreamworld, all is pure magic. 

I walked out amongst the deep snow last night with the dogs in the garden and it was just heavenly. There is no other word to describe it.  By the river our little willow tree is laced with a set of solar lights which are delicate and pretty.  The beauty of the garden and the surrounding hills and fields was breathtaking. I was loath to come in and it wasn’t even that cold, not compared to  the harshness of the temperatures that we have been enduring of late.  But the wee cottage looked so inviting and as it is built of stone and painted white it blended into the scenery looking just like rough white icing on a cake.  And through a window  my tiny Christmas tree could be seen with its little lights glinting. 

In my ponderings I also got to wondering why snow is white; I am somewhat scientifically-challenged you see - M says it is something to do with light reflecting on the crystals.  I also pondered on the fact that each snowflake is said to be unique in pattern - just like DNA - this to me is symbolic spiritually and reminds me of humanity where each face, each character. each soul, is different,   I can’t help my mind wandering, when there is poetry all around me.

This morning we have a foot of snow; I went out with my ruler and measured it.  It snowed from about 2.30 am.  Before we retired to bed we left the outside light on so that if we woke we could see the next promised belt of snow arrive. Joy of joys we did wake just at the appointed hour and  we enjoyed a cup of tea, listened to the World Service - there were some very moving personal stories on there - and through our (curtainless) window we watched  the snowflakes fall past the window. The snow since then has been relentless and has laced everything in sight, so much so that even the most mundane objects have become pieces of art. There are photos, paintings, poems and sculpture in-the-making everywhere I look and I can’t wait for the snow to ease  so I can go out and take photographs.  And all the trees are decorated with cotton wool, as if for Christmas.

My first priority is to feed the ever-hungry birds, they are everywhere to be seen and flying frantically from branch to branch so while my porridge cooks I venture out into snow that comes up to the top of my wellies.  I put heaps of nuts and seeds on the covered bird table by the kitchen window and some more under the pine trees, where, miraculously, there is still a patch of green.  The snow is still falling.  When I come in as well as the usual cinnamon, raisins and ground almonds, I add some golden syrup to my porridge telling myself that I need the extra energy.


Apart from my dear dog Finn who will be fourteen on New Years Day - he loves the snow and plays in it just like a puppy.

An unexpected  Saturday morning off work as my road is hugely impassable.  So for once I shall enjoy a proper weekend like most folk do.  I shall have to deduct the time from my future leave but never mind -  it is a gift to be at home all day today.  I enjoy being in the situation of not being able to get anywhere, to be cut off  is a kind of freedom though I fully understand that, as in everything in life, there is a flip side to that statement.  We have enough food for a while, nothing in for Christmas but, Scrooge that I am,  I am honestly not bothered about that or the fact that we may end up living on baked potatoes for rather a long time.  The worst thing that could happen is a lengthy power cut, then we will be up the creek without a paddle.  But we do have a gas hob, an ancient Rayburn and a log burner so as long as we have coal, logs and gas we are OK. 

And now, just when you think life couldn’t be more bright and beautiful the sun has come out.  I will soon be out with my little camera.  I shall post these VERY snowy pics in a later post, the ones in this post were taken yesterday when we only had eight inches of snow..

But the best blessing of all, apart from the visual beauty, is the unique snow-muffled silence.  Its soft, quiet peace is felt deep within my soul.

Peace and quiet, these are two words that truly are a marriage made in heaven.

I did warn you about the clichés……..

Bye for now,
Enjoy the snow,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Friday 17 December 2010

Inner Wakefulness

As dusk descends
a field of deep snow
becomes a sea.

Inner Wakefulness

This place is a dream
only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought
was your grief.

A man goes to sleep in the town
where he has always lived
and he dreams
he's living in another town.
In the dream he doesn't remember
the town he's sleeping in his bed in,
he believes the reality
of the dream town.

The world is that kind of sleep.
Humankind is being led
along an evolving course,
through this migration
of intelligences
and though we seem
to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness,
that directs the dream

and that will eventually
startle us back
to the truth of
who we are.

From The Essential Rumi,
translated by Coleman Barks

Sunday 12 December 2010

What does your room say about you?

Many people hear voices when no-one is there.

Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day.

Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.



Artist's Room Vincent Van Gogh

Mark, who writes over at the excellent Views from the Bike Shed  recently wrote a post about his desk and it included a photo.  I thought I would do this to but to be honest I am a little ashamed of the desk the computer lives on.  The monitor is raised up to my eye level on two old telephone directories (!) and the whole caboodle is housed in one of these cheap put-together-yourself units that fits everything in it - scanner, computer, speakers, shelves etc.  I will tell you about it but it would not make an attractive pic.  I do have a lovely oak desk next to it which overlooks the garden, the river and the field but it is too narrow to house my ancient computer’s monitor and I have no desire for a laptop. I like to have flowers on the old desk but lately it has been flower-free (they probably would have frozen anyway).  What else is on my desk? A deep blue crystal ball, an antique glass inkwell and a Victorian magnifying glass and paperweight, photos of M and our children when they were little.  A mug of pens. Candles, stones, bits and bobs.  On my monitor a pink angel sits, she has a smiley face.  Below her a sticker on the top of the screen affirms I’m happy and healthy.

The room I blog in is tiny, it used to be a bedroom but we have removed a wall and now the stairs of the cottage lead down from it to what I call the parlour.  It is not ideal because I can hear the TV and can talk to people downstairs (well shout anyway). I wear headphones a lot though because I love to listen to my music while I am on the computer.

The walls used to be white but now are pretty pink which I find very soft and soothing.  I have some photos and pics on the walls and there is a long mirror which is useful (every woman needs one!). Plenty of bookshelves of course and a musical keyboard for when the mood takes me.  A bed for one dog and a basket that Molly the cat has adopted for her home so I have lined it with an old cushion for her.  Oak beams on the ceiling. There is also a tiny cast iron fireplace, never used although it could be. I have four logs placed in it, ready.  There are little bedrooms on each side of this room and that is all -  the upstairs of my tiny abode.  Small but much-loved.

I recently heard about a successful blog called Bookshelf Porn.  This features photos of the bookshelves in peoples’ homes.  Ideal for bibliophiles like me who enjoy snooping on other like-minded folk and seeing where and how they store their hoards of treasure.

I also adored the Guardian page that featured ‘Writers Rooms’.  It was wonderful to actually see where writers create their works.

I picked this one below at random and it turned out to be the room of one of my absolute favourite writers - 
the Irish writer Colm Toibin.

Here are some more examples of writers’ rooms

I got to thinking about my ideal study in my ideal home.  .

My dream study would be downstairs at the back of the (ideal) house,  in winter it would be warmed by a real fire and would have French doors that opened out onto a perfect weed-free dream garden. There would also have to be a view of the sea which I could of course walk down to easily.  These doors would be open in the summer so I could sit outside and have breakfast, coffee, lunch or afternoon tea.  I could also sit, write or simply dream there whenever the weather was kind enough.

I would have a very expensive music system which would include a digital radio (but no television allowed) and the walls on two sides would  have wooden shelves all book-lined from floor to ceiling.  Only my very favourite books of course.  There would be windows on the other two walls. It would be a ‘many aspected’ room.

There would be beautiful rugs on the floor and an antique desk with furniture to go with it. The latest computer of course with a flat screen and all the trimmings and a high spec. printer for my photos.  A good swivel chair with a lovely comfy seat.

Beautiful paintings on the walls and photos of all of my loved ones around.

No phone.

 A cosy squashy armchair for reading and a rocker by the window for mulling.

A couple of dogs would often lie near me on their duvet beds and a cat or two in baskets

A piano, old but still very much in tune.

A more modern keyboard for when the mood takes me.

A huge mirror that reflected light into the room.

Scented candles of the highest quality ready to light each evening.

Piles of books ready to read.

Beautiful notebooks that I have collected on my travels all ready and waiting to be filled with words.

CD’s of all my favourite music.

A pot of  the finest pens.

Crystals hanging at the windows.

An antique lamp.

Fresh flowers always.

Green plants to cleanse the atmosphere.

Maybe a daybed for when I need a  little lie down.

One can dream ………

Friday 10 December 2010

On Cottages and Simplicity

A Good Book

Dear Diary,

If the rural hideaway is about one thing (apart from escape and sanctuary) it is about simplicity.  The rural hideaway is about life reduced to its basics: talking, cooking, reading, sleeping, walking;  the lost pleasures of solitude and unscheduled time.
Antony Woodward.
The Garden in the Clouds

Dove Cottage. Grasmere
Wordsworth's cottage.

Candles at four o’clock, warm hearth rugs, tea, a fair teamaker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.
Thomas De Quincey writing about when he lived at Wordsworth's Dove Cottage.
Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

The first quote above sums up absolute perfection for me especially unscheduled time; there is nothing I like more.  That and being cosy in my little cottage when wild weather is raging outside which is what the second quote is about.

It’s still cold, we had a wee thaw last night but it is about 0 degrees this morning, positively balmy and much more comfortable to live with.  My cottage feels cosy once more and less like the interior of a freezer.

Talking of cottages I was browsing an October issue of the  magazine Country Life which comes round to my library, it’s  not really my cup of tea although there are sometimes new artists to discover and the occasional really interesting article relating to the countryside but I have no interest in the hunting, shooting and fishing brigade or in the sometimes hilarious photos of rich debutantes.  I looked into this issue only because on the front cover a heading Dream Cottages jumped out at me.  You may know that I am passionate about cottages and the smaller the better so I had visions of cottages for sale or luscious paintings of cottages.  There were no pictures and none for sale, only the huge mansions that always fill the pages.  There was however an article by Antony Woodward who found his dream cottage in the Black Mountains of Wales.  I found the two quotations therein.  I think I blogged about this book earlier this year but if I didn’t then I can tell you now that it is a great read, beautifully written and a true story.  It is called The Garden in the Clouds.  The garden is open once a year under the Yellow Book scheme and is definitely on my list to visit in 2011.

I will sign off now, my time is alas rather scheduled today, how I long for the days that aren’t…….

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Why Worry?

Dear Diary,

It is cold, probably an understatement as cold is probably the most-uttered word all over the UK at the moment,  Our river was totally frozen this morning and it was Minus 15 last night - Wales never gets the mentions that Scotland does but we too are suffering.  It was Minus 17 in the daytime not too far from here yesterday and even when I drove to a morning meeting it was Minus 13.  It is treacherous underfoot where there is no grit or salt down.  The birds are perishing and I can barely keep up with feeding them seed, nuts, suet, crumbs, cheese, etc.  I live in dread of receiving my next electricity bill but I am not alone there.  Ah well, such is life.

And the good news?  There is plenty.  Should I write a list of blessings?

The beauty is breathtaking, this morning there is sunlight, blue skies and brilliant white snow.  Bare winter trees which I love so and in many places there is hoar frost on the trees which is magical, there is no other way to describe it.

I took photos last year and they can be found on my Photo Blog

You can see them here for the Hoar Frost and here for the Frozen River .

I cannot see the point of taking more this year but perhaps I should not be lazy. 

I am reading In Siberia by Colin Thubron for my book group, well to be honest, as they love to say in Wales, I shall be beginning it today - this book might make Wales seem warm by comparison?

What else is warming me?  Mark Knopfler is singing to me with his deep brown voice along with the pure sweet voice of Emmylou Harris and together they are truly warming my heart.  I shall post you one of the songs below and you can listen along too.

I have also bought two thermal vests on the advice of someone who is Very Wise - they are called Frenchneck Vests, are quite pretty, flattering and soft to the touch; they had rave reviews on Amazon which were accurate as they are so cosy I can’t stop raving about them.  I think back to my childhood when I wore a vest and a liberty bodice (remember those?) - folk knew a thing or two about keeping chests warm in those days eh?

Grit and salt are blessings. De-icer too.  As is my ancient trusty Rayburn and the woodburner. Logs and coal and the men who deliver them (and thank you the log angel too).  And the man who lights the fires.

Books to curl up and escape into, where would we be without those? And blogs to read - they are a peek into others’ worlds.

Hot foods, soups, stews, curries. And if you can drink it, brandy is a great warmer and nice mixed with American ginger ale.

Warm throws which double as blankets to snuggle into.

Christmas to look forward to. (Did I really write that?) I am trying to be positive and at least I am having some time off work, more than last year when I had about a day.  If it is a white Christmas I will be pleased.   I have done most of my present shopping online (haven’t been anywhere except work for ages) and I just hope that things will arrive on time, if not ..tough luck.

TV, radio, DVD’s…….all help with the three ’E’s….. entertainment, education and escapism.

Strictly Come Dancing (my guilty pleasure).

A lot of folk round here are stranded in their homes so I am lucky in that respect.

My dear car starts first time every time I go out.  (I shouldn’t have written that should I?)

And now I am off to have my hair cut, always a cheering thing as I visit a friend who lives locally for this but having my hair shortened is probably a daft idea as I will  surely feel the cold even more!

Before I go, here is a little (cold) poem and then I shall leave you with a (warming) song as promised.


There is no flourish, all is saintly quiet.
Lazy flakes, unhurried, fall silently and slow.
Their unique patterns, secret, microscopic,
melding into one as they lay down gently on the land.
Settling into silence, their music sacred
amongst the aguish cold.

Pheasants, persistent, seek out food;
Magpies, two for joy, fly branch to branch
colour-matched to winter tree and snow.
The heron swoops but quickly rises up again,
hard ice is now a river rink.
All is raw and keen and  beautiful,
only rime, hoar frost and icicles
are nipping at our skins.

Cait O‘Connor.

Bye for now,
Stay warm,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 5 December 2010

World Book Night

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.  

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. 

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end.  You live several lives while reading it.  ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

Dear Diary,

I expect you’ve heard of the Million Book Giveaway to be held on World Book Night, March 5th 2011;  an attempt by publishers to promote the reading of books (and if I am to be cynical their own specific authors).  It is said to be a collaboration between booksellers, libraries, publishers and readers but I have heard nothing about it in our library service. They have come up with a list of 25 titles (see below) and want people to submit 100 words in praise of their favourite one in the hope of being picked as one of the 20,000 people chosen to give away 48 copies to folk who don’t normally read.

I am not against anything that promotes the reading of books but I would love to make my own list and feel sure I could pick books, real crackers……. titles that would be more likely to encourage people to read. I bet you could too?  This is a challenge to myself and I shall be working on it.  Why don’t you have a go too and send your suggestions to me?

Anyway these are the ones they have chosen.

Case Histories -Kate Atkinson
Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin
Alan Bennett - A Life Like Other People's
John le Carré - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Lee Child - Killing Floor
Carol Ann Duffy - The World's Wife
Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Seamus Heaney - Selected Poems
Marian Keyes - Rachel's Holiday
Mohsin Hamid - The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Ben Macintyre - Agent Zigzag
Gabriel García Márquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Yann Martel - Life of Pi
Alexander Masters - Stuart: A Life Backwards
Rohinton Mistry - A Fine Balance
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Toni Morrison - Beloved
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Half of a Yellow Sun
David Nicholls - One Day
Philip Pullman - Northern Lights
Erich Maria Remarque - All Quiet on the Western Front
CJ Sansom - Dissolution
Nigel Slater - Toast
Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Sarah Waters - Fingersmith

I am a little sad because although they are all ’good’ books they are a tad predictable and what I call ’fashionable’.  I realise that they probably have to be contemporary but even so  none of them jump out at me demanding to be fought for and I enjoy a fight....... especially for a book……such is my passion.  As for the poetic inclusions of course I adore both Seamus Heaney and Carol Ann Duffy but I think the organisers could have chosen a wider view by picking an anthology of poetry.  I realise the publishers are putting a lot of money into the venture and  are hoping to recoup it in sales but overall I am disappointed……….. what do you think?

If you are still awake......... to whet your appetite I have dug out the BBC's Big Read Top 100 books which was compiled a few years ago - there are some grand titles here.. 

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
I'd love to hear your favourite(s),or if you do a blog on them send me a link and I will include it on my blog.

Bye for now,
PS Do go here today:
Mosaic Monday

Friday 3 December 2010


Dear Diary,

The cold has become something of a cliché and I fear I am boring you. But it is on my mind all the time and sensually I can’t ignore it because most of the time I am striving to keep warm. I am sure it dulls the brain and slows me down because I seem to be just plodding lately, getting nowhere fast and unable to achieve anything; I have just spent what seems like ages just replying to mail and deleting my overfull email Inbox - a complete waste of time really.

I look out of the cottage windows and everything is a bright white, it is really very beautiful (another cliché) but there are always so many (desperate) birds flying around or feeding (and sometimes fighting) at the feeders. We bought huge sacks of peanuts and seed to see them through and I feed them each morning while my own breakfast of porridge is cooking (oats make good central heating!). Mid-morning those late risers the starlings arrive en masse and ‘take over’ - M hates them but I say they have to live and eat the same as the rest of us. I haven’t seen any fieldfares yet this year which is strange as they always come in conditions like this - perhaps it is too early in the season.

There are lots of icicles and thick snow but at least the road is clear and traffic is passing by safely - a bit different to this time last week when we had eighteen vehicles stuck outside. We will be OK until the council’s grit supplies run low and then we will not be top priority - then the fun will start ….or not.

The weather dominates the news and the constant forecasts which are frustrating because they can never seem to get it right (‘twas ever thus). My daughter says they make it up as they go along and I think she is right. They said it would be Minus 6 last night and it was Minus 12.5. It is a balmy Minus 5 at the moment! I look pretty barmy too layered up as I am indoors and wearing an unflattering thermal hat that is too big for me. It was bought in desperation at the beginning of the week - there was not much choice in the agricultural supplies store. But I have finally succumbed and turned the radiators up to their maximum output, I’m dreading the leccy bill as it was horrendous last year and I didn’t turn it on full then.

The wind has lessened today but it is cloudy and snow is forecast for later. I have to go out soon but will be keeping an eye on the skies…….

How is it with you?

Bye for now,

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Universal Child

How many mountains must you face before you learn to climb.

I'm gonna give you what it takes, my universal child.

I'm gonna try to find a way to keep you safe from harm.

I'm gonna be a special place, a shelter from the storm.

And I can see you, you're everywhere, your portrait fills the sky.

I'm gonna wrap my arms around you, my universal child.

And when I look into your eyes, so innocent and pure.

I see the shadow of the things that you've had to endure.

I see the tracks of every tear that ran right down your face.

I see the hurt, I see the pain, I see the human race.
Find More lyrics at

I can feel you, you're everywhere, shining like the sun.

And I wish to God that kids like you could be like everyone.

How many tumbles must it take before you learn to fly.

I'm going to help you spread your wings, my universal child.

I can feel you everywhere shining like the sun.

And I wish to God that kids like you could be like everyone.

And I wish to God that kids like you could be like everyone.

Annie Lennox

Universal Child mp3 zshare rapidshare mediafire filetube 4shared usershare supload zippyshare by Annie Lennox  collected from Wikipedia

Monday 29 November 2010

Minus 18

Sorry it is yet another poem and not a proper blog. It is so cold in my study that I am not keen on spending much time at the computer; the log fire is much more inviting. There is not much on my mind these last few days other than keeping warm.

I hope normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

I was inspired to write this little poem though.

Minus 18

I have walked this day in sunshine
and in the lighted snow,
have found there can still be joy
amongst the cruellest, fiercest cold
for I have trod amongst diamonds
and as frosted jewels surrounded me,
I was made rich.

Two well-fed dogs ran beside me;
covered in white, all sniff and snuffle,
racing and falling, they would laugh and rise again.

Among the maiden snowfall,
across the field and by the frozen river’s side
lay snow prints of a record-breaking, freezing winter’s night;
fine drawings in a stark and saddened monochrome;
lines drawn by otters, foxes, badgers and the rest,
all had crossed this hardened, whitened winterland
but were they writ in hope or desperation?

Cait O’Connor

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Just a pic and a poem

 Maxfield Parrish 1870


Dark or light, the day is given;
her kindly presence surely follows night.
Sure, like rain or death and taxes,
she is granted to me with each dawn
and if I’m spared, must always quietly rise.
She is dressed in white this morn,
layered in time, folded in hours
stitched with hope and clothed in mystery
and I can play her as I wish.
I can stretch her out or hold her close, 
sing low and soft or seek out beauty in her dance,
measure out in hours or seconds all its spice,
savour all its sweetness in my moments,
rub in truth and knead delight,
speak a prayer with grace
or quietly weep,
spit her out and run away.

Cait O’Connor

Monday 15 November 2010


How can one keep from joyfulness
or a whispered thanks to God?
I didn’t exactly order it
though it was ladled last night
in my falling-in to sleep
and cradled in my dreams.
But it came unbidden to me;
hoar frost, a mist and sunlight
have dressed this mid-November morning.
and I need not ask for more.
From my window of white diamonds
a heron stalks the river
gazes at the bridge,
is standing, statuesque, in meditation.
I watch too, in a similarity of stillness
but who will weaken first?
with a call to breakfast or to prayer?

Cait O’Connor

Sunday 14 November 2010

Dear Diary,

Our River

It’s been too long again since I last blogged.   I can offer no worthy excuses; there is only life as usual and a respiratory virus that is doing the rounds which has laid me low and sapped my energies..  But whatever I am doing I would rather be writing and am with you in spirit if nothing else.

I am on the mend now I think because I have spent time this weekend beginning to put the garden to bed.  This I have delayed as long as possible in order to shorten its winter sleep.   Everything looks bedraggled though as it always does at this time of year and I don‘t think I have ever cleared up so many leaves as I have this year. -  I long for one of those attractive, inspiring winter gardens full of colourful touches  like winter jasmine, hellebores, viburnum, mahonia and witchhazel, I read that there is even a winter flowering cherry called a Prunus Autumnalis Rosea.  I do have a daphne which is always a delight when it flowers and a dogwood with its gorgeous red stems.  And my much-loved cyclamens which seem to like this Welsh upland.
Come spring I will have forgotten all about these ideas for winter and I will never get around to planting any winter brighteners for next year.   Never mind,  I will look forward to January and the arrival of my snowdrops because from then on the only way is up.  I quite like the snow when  it comes because it bestows its own special  beauty on the garden, frosts do too and my favourite of all are the hoar frosts.  There are lots of red berries this year which tells me that we are in for another hard winter - I must prepare myself for another hefty leccy bill.  I always enjoy being in the garden as my mind can wander and I often get ideas or inspiration to write something.  It is certainly relaxing but exhausting at the same time which is probably what a body needs to be well.

The dark evenings are upon us which means the days are short; thank God for log fires and our ancient Rayburn which we have resurrected of late as it has been soooo cold.  Winter has its many blessings and as long as I can keep warm I am happy but even so, time outside in all weathers is essential to keep that black dog at bay.

There was an exciting happening last week.  M saw two otters playing in our river - in the daytime!  I was indoors at the time so I missed them and was naturally green with envy.  We are wondering of they have made a home nearby and will be on otter watch from now on.  I shall keep you posted.

I will leave with a song, it is so well-known, is somehow eternal and the subject is peace - on a day when people think of the dead in warfare both past and present I always wish we could have such a day to try and bring about peace in our time with maybe the wearing of white flowers.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 31 October 2010


Dear Diary,

Samhain Art Nouveau greeting card - Oestara Publishing

(I shall start with a poem and end with a blessing).

Yea, she hath passed hereby, and blessed the sheaves,
And the great garths, and stacks, and quiet farms,
And all the tawny, and the crimson leaves.
Yea, she hath passed with poppies in her arms,
Under the star of dusk, through stealing mist,
And blessed the earth, and gone, while no man wist.

With slow, reluctant feet, and weary eyes,
And eye-lids heavy with the coming sleep,
With small breasts lifted up in stress of sighs,
She passed, as shadows pass, among the sheep;
While the earth dreamed, and only I was ware
Of that faint fragrance blown from her soft hair.

The land lay steeped in peace of silent dreams;
There was no sound amid the sacred boughs.
Nor any mournful music in her streams:
Only I saw the shadow on her brows,
Only I knew her for the yearly slain,
And wept, and weep until she come again.
Frederic Manning

I apologise -  it has been such a long time since my last ‘confessions’.

I’ve been away for a few days to the Otherworld which is what we call the South East of England from whence we escaped twenty years ago.  We travelled eastwards from Wales for the wedding of my niece in Lewes and also for a reunion of siblings for my husband, also by chance held in Sussex.  We stayed with my brother and sister in law in Surrey which is always a pleasure.  Much as we hate to leave Wales, the pleasure of seeing so many family members who we don’t see often enough was a real joy.

Last night was a return to watching Strictly Come Dancing but I didn’t enjoy it as much as usual.  Only one dance moved me (Matthew) and the judging, the costumes and the ridiculous Halloween theme choice of music were a disappointment.  Personally I don’t think Halloween and music and dancing mix.  I hope next week is an improvement.  Sometimes the costumes are so unflattering, all the wrong colour and they irritate me so much that I am itching to re-clothe the contestants.  Moan over.  I am allowed one per day.

So Sunday comes round again, my favourite day of the week but even though I call it my day of rest it is back to the old everyday routine because I am back to doing my daily yoga each morning  -  I have been very lazy of late, preferring to have an extra twenty minutes in bed instead of exercising each morning as I used to.  I do my yoga routines to music and never know what songs will play as I set my Windows Media Player to shuffle selection mode.  This makes it more fun and in a really daft way it helps get me out of bed each morning, eager to see what music will come up.  Sad eh? Today’s music is pure Sunday, easy going soft and gentle songs by Mark Knopfler and Celine Dion (not together!) and a final one by Eric Clapton which wakes me up and energises me as only Clapton can. 

I am still reading in bed each morning as usual and the book I am reading at the moment is so good that it makes it hard to put down.  I have read it before -  it is The Secret Scripture by a much loved author, Sebastian Barry but a book group member has, to my delight,  chosen it for our November read. I know the ‘story’ so can now re-read  and completely wallow in the writing -  and it is language to die for.

And so it is Samhain already, the time when the veil is the thinnest between this world and the next.  I love Autumn so and will be very sad to see October leave us, she has been and still is so beauteous this year.  I can’t remember last year’s leaves being as colourful as they are this year. I am not of scientific mind.but  I think it’s something to do with the weather, frosts and all that.

John O'Donohue 1991-2009

Talking of dearly departed souls, John O’Donohue is one of the most missed so I was so pleased to hear of a newly published book of his writings..

In The Four Elements, John draws upon his Celtic heritage and the love of his native landscape, the west of Ireland, to weave together a tapestry of beautifully evoked images of nature.

In this collection, John explores a range of themes relating to the way we live our lives today, revealing how the energy and rhythm of the natural world – its innocence and creativity, its power and splendour – hold profound lessons for us all.

With a foreword written by his brother Pat, this illuminating treasury is a unique collection of reflections inspired by the ancient wisdom of this earth.

The book is available in the U.K. and is set for release in the U.S. early next year.

For more information:

I am off to order a copy now, it will have to be (a tad early) Christmas present to myself..

In September I had sent my dear sister the latest book of John O’Donohue’s Blessings for her birthday and I was thrilled when one of them was read out at her daughter’s wedding.

For Marriage

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.
As the ocean finds calm in the view of land
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.
As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.
As kindly as the moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.
As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.
As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.
As elegant as dreams absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.
And as twilight harvests the day’s colours,
May love bring you home to each other.

John O’Donohue

I will leave you now because before I polish up my broomstick I have alliums to plant, dogs to walk and Sunday lunch to get on the go.  I hope you will forgive me that this post is a lot about Irish authors but I think it must be my dead ancestors trying to influence me through the veil.

Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Sunday 17 October 2010

Close to You



This post is a response to a kind of Meme posed in the wonderful blog that is Chronicles of a Country Girl.
(do go and visit her blog, there are photos to die for, she is another Kate and she also has a border collie).

These questions were posed.

You may recognise the wording as they come from lyrics of the song Close to You by the Carpenters.

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near

I like to think it’s because they love me as much as I love them, especially as it is said they are akin to angels. But it is more likely that they see me as the lady of the cottage who feeds them with nuts, mixed seeds, fat balls, left over bread and the like. But they do enjoy my music and always sing along when I fling open doors or windows,

What always gets you down

Definitely not rainy days and Mondays as I love both.
Best not get me started on what does though, I am a Grumpy Old Woman of late and it could turn out to be a blog in itself.

If you had to live yesterday once more (literally yesterday, as in Friday the 15th) which part might be worth writing a pretty pop song about?

Oh God I can’t even remember yesterday!
Let it be today.
Let the song be about autumn sunshine, a walk in the field with the dogs, taking photos, river watching, listening to music, watching dance, laughing, having a nice meal, feeling great joy that it is the weekend and that all is well.

Where’s the coolest place you’ve been where you could look “down on creation

I hate flying in an aeroplane but would like to be able to have a superhuman ability to fly and not only in dreams. I have not been on the top of the world, not literally but like most people I have been there mood-wise on occasions and it is a good feeling - not under the influence of any drugs I hasten to add.

What’s something in your life that has only just begun?

The rest of my life has only just begun.
This moment……
Ah, it has passed already.

All these answers are cliché-ridden, I apologise.

Here’s one for you inspired by another song, the Lovin Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic?

Do you believe in magic?
Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart?
Can music free your soul?
Does it make you feel happy like an old-time movie?
Is the magic in the music or is the magic in you?

Tell me of the magic in your life.

I am looking forward to answers in the comments or in your blog.

Bye for now,

Friday 15 October 2010

Friday Rambles

Windswept by Paul Henry

Dear Diary,

Who can tell the dancer from the dance?
W B Yeats.

This is just a bit of a Friday ramble, just a list of a few nice things about the day.

The sun has been shining, it has been very warm, more like summer in fact and I have primroses out in my garden which, nestling beneath the roses make a rather unusual coupling.  A fuchsia I have planted in an old Belfast sink has also decided to flower once more.

There is also something rather nice that helps me get out of bed in the mornings and it’s a new kind of cereal.  Chocolate Weetabix, have you tried it yet? Simply delicious, the naughtiness of chocolate mixed with the healthiness of wholewheat, what a grand combination.   I feel I should  perhaps be paid for advertising it but never mind.  I must admit that I have been unfaithful to my organic porridge for a few days now, Jordan’s porridge which I adore, their organic and chunky oats which I have had religiously every morning for literally years as anyone who knows me will confirm.  I usually add ground almonds, raisins and whatever fruit comes to hand…. Very healthy and sustaining for me ……but not lately.  I  have a new temptation.  I know the answer …. Jordans will have to make chocolate porridge…..they don’t do they?

So what else has been good?

I found some YSL Elle perfume very greatly reduced in a local Boots and a Wallis skirt in a charity shop, it is my favourite skirt-colour -  grey in my much-loved herringbone tweed mixed with a textured tweed and just below knee length.

Talking of clothes I am a bit late I know but I have just discovered Boden’s 'pull-ons', I have a pair in lovely jade green and white flowery pattern and really, as their website says, the comfort and quality of these is out of this world.  Worth every penny. I sleep in them, wear them to lounge about or snuggle up in, do my yoga in them, I even blog in them.  I think I need two pairs!  I am getting well into snuggly type clothes now as winter draws on.  I have got some really soft  socks from M and S, quite inexpensive too but soooo warm and comfy. Again I wear them for everything.  And I bought a pair of their cheap soft boots, the sort you wear indoors.  I have to be prepared for the hard winter that is forecast.  Someone said to expect snow showers next week!

I also discovered a new fruit and veg shop today in one of our market towns, it is a little bit hidden away on an industrial estate and  sells the most fantastic range of stuff which is all really good quality.  They sell eggs, plants, ice cream and  bird food too.  There is a dearth of places round here to get good vegetables and fruit so I am very pleased.  Also for sale  there was a fantastic classic car - a 1953 burgundy coloured Vauxhall Wyvern.  Stumbling on this car was a real trip down memory lane for me as when I was a child my adoptive parents had one in a metallic green colour - I even remember its registration number - 729 HEV.

I treated myself to a magazine today, an Easy Living with a free gift of an Emma Bridgewater tea towel which can’t be a bad deal.  I shall read my book (Stepping Stones - Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Denis O'Driscoll)   in bed tonight by the light of another much loved object, my little reading lamp which can be clipped on a book - I just hold mine as it can be bent into any position, the light it gives is fantastic, the battery has lasted ages and it even doubles up as a torch.  I am putting a lot of effort into simplifying my life and getting rid of stuff, and as well as 'stuff' I am trying to eliminate what I call the 'nuisance' in life and all its 'unwanted obligations' but there are some things one just can’t live without.  What can’t you live without?
What are you getting rid of?

Before I go here is a poem by one of my favourite poets. She speaks of things you can't buy but which are the most valuable of all.


    LIFE has loveliness to sell,
    All beautiful and splendid things,
    Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
    Soaring fire that sways and sings,
    And children's faces looking up,
    Holding wonder like a cup.
    Life has loveliness to sell,
    Music like a curve of gold,
    Scent of pine trees in the rain,
    Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
    And for your spirit's still delight,
    Holy thoughts that star the night.
    Spend all you have for loveliness,
    Buy it and never count the cost;
    For one white singing hour of peace
    Count many a year of strife well lost,
    And for a breath of ecstasy
    Give all you have been, or could be. 
    Sara Teasdale

 What was good about your day?

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,