This week 3

It has been crazy hot weather this week, to the point where one day I just put on shorts and a t-shirt and remembered not to walk around on video calls. Thankfully the house gets a good cross-breeze and so benefits from any cool air going. Charlie has been out most of the time, apparently sleeping under a neighbour’s hedge with only his tail sticking out; but my poor Bellecat has been suffering in all her fluff and sleeping curled up in odd patches of shade.

I’ve been…

Reading – Persephone books, specifically books about houses. I don’t know why, except that it struck me that a lot of the Persephone list is a bit depressing and I couldn’t face anything bleak. The four novels I’ve read have all all been set early to mid 20th century, and they all feature families in transition. It strikes me that if I’d been born earlier in the 20th century I’d have had a grim time of it, not clever enough to get a scholarship and just intelligent enough to realise that there could be more to life than whatever ghastly office or shop opportunities presented themselves. Even if I’d been wealthy, I’d have been a disaster at the round of parties required by being launched into society. Horrors.

Although the Persephone books do also make you feel sorry for the male characters, so often married to fractious, helpless child-women. On the other hand, so often repressive, sexist, bullying and manipulative figures.

Bricks and Mortar – Helen Ashton. Which begins with young architect, Martin, travelling to Rome with the intention of studying the buildings there. Instead, he gets caught by a scheming old woman who is looking for a suitable husband for her fundamentally useless but very lovely daughter. So poor Martin gets trapped and the novel is about his life with Letty, his architectural practice and his daughter Stacy.

Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple. Has a cast of unpleasant, but of their time male characters, and various women who are struggling to somehow live differently. The house, Greenbanks, is the family home, just about maintained by Louisa, the matriarch. One of her sons-in-law, who looks after her money for her, almost manages it away entirely. Another character called Letty finally inherits some money that will give her freedom at the age of 50; her daughter Rachel, born into a period when women had more freedoms anyway, gets to college and chooses love over familial duty.

The New House – Lettice Cooper. Set over one day (a device I always enjoy), in which a mother, daughter and their remaining servant are moving out of the family home to a smaller, manageable house. The old one is sold, its eventual fate undecided but likely to be either turned into a club or torn down and replaced with terraces. The move becomes a pivotal day for Rhoda, on the cusp of being the dutiful daughter and continuing to stay at home to look after her mother but recognising her last chance to find her own life.

Mariana – Monica Dickens. Not a ‘house’ story, but a coming of age tale that I hadn’t remembered being as wickedly funny as it is. It’s about the eponymous Mary as she grows up, struggles through school, suffers through a truly embarrassing time at theatre school and a near-miss engagement before everything comes good for her.

Sorting out plants – I had bought a planter at the beginning of lockdown and then got overwhelmed by plant choice. And then overwhelmed again by the total faff of re-planting into a planter. Finally, I made a decision, and now I have a parlour palm: air purifying, non-toxic and allegedly difficult to kill.


And a sneaky ivy as well, because I do like a trailing plant. The poem in the frame, by the way, is Adlestrop by Edward Thomas.


I’m inspired to get a few more plants too, but there’s more thinking and planning to be done first. So that’s a next month activity.

This week…

I have been mostly:

Finding out… more about being INTJ. I’ve done various personality type questionnaires for employers over the years and I am officially: INTJ, High Red, or Blue depending on which methodology you prefer. They mostly all amount to the same thing but because lockdown has surprised even me with my near total lack of need for face to face engagement with Other People, I’ve been digging into the introvert stuff a bit more. So, yeah. All of it. This is totally helping me understand why some people claim to be introverts and then, after a mere day or two of their own company, are galloping off to be sociable. Amateurs. It’s also helping me understand why I feel like it’s so rare I meet people who are like me, and that’s because INTJ women are around 0.5% of the world’s population and therefore 99.5% of the world is fucking weird. Well, that’s how I read it.

Listening to… Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson. Which is Book 4 in the Walt Longmire series. I have the impression it’s a bit of a disjointed narrative, but that’s down to me listening to it before I go to sleep and missing bits. I’m getting slightly impatient with Walt’s lack of communication with Vick, but hey, if Evanovich can spin out the Steph/Ranger thing over a gazillion books in which he mostly rocks up and just says ‘Babe’, anything is possible.

Eating… randomly. I hate the grocery store and only shop every 2 weeks, so supplies were running low. I totally ran out of chocolate biscuits, for example, and had to cold turkey through the 9.30-10.30 biscuit slot in my working day. But I made stuffed peppers last night and have leftovers tonight, and then later I’m making blueberry cinnamon breakfasty things.

Watching… Fred Astaire movies. The BBC has a few available, and I’ve been watching them in bits at lunchtime. Every, single line is perfect when he dances and it makes me realise that even the professionals on Strictly can’t get close.

Reading… don’t remember. Anything? The problem is that I re-read my Ava Lee novels (Ian Hamilton) last weekend, then ordered the next two, but the fourth one has arrived before the third. And the next Ava Lee is what I want to read, so I’m just waiting. If you don’t know, Ava Lee is a Chinese-Canadian accountant who specialises in getting back vast amounts of people’s lost money, usually when it’s been lost in some kind of dodgy way. She is smart and pragmatically kick ass. Oh yes, I remember, I finished The Left Hand of Darkness, LeGuin is a genius, end of discussion. And I dipped into The Mabinogi (beautifully done by Faber poetry) and also into the second vol of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy for a bit of night time re-reading.

Wishing… that I did all my laundry when it was still sunny. Did I forget what country I live in? Oh, the irony of getting mint and lemonade in my grocery collection in order to make Pimms, when I spent today under a blanket. As it’s currently set to be wet or humid or both for the next 10 days, I dug out the electric dryer again. England at near mid-summer everyone, smelly laundry and wet cats.

The important things in life

Which are, of course, biscuits, cats, tea and books. Hitherto, biscuits probably wouldn’t have made it onto my list, but now that I’m working from home, I’m finding the 10.30am chocolate digestive is a key element to a successful working day. Plus, I’ve realised that the 80p per day I was chucking into a vending machine for one Cadbury’s Snack! bar was a total rip off, when you get can get 2 packets of choc digestives for £2.


Belle remains my good cat and desk kitten. She has allocated desk space, demarcated by a folded blanket, and usually curls up there or on the window ledge. She only very occasionally interrupts a video call, but I presume that just helps someone win their current game of Video Call Bingo, so I don’t discourage her.

Charlie, on the other hand, although He Is a Good Kitten Really, has been wreaking havoc among the local young rabbit population. I saved one small bunny from his claws last week, and put it in the field over the road. It had hopped away when I went back to check later, so I hope that means it’s off for a long and happy life and was not the poor unfortunate that Charlie was snacking on a day later. I cleared up a lot of rabbit pieces from outside my back door this weekend and it was disgusting.


Another side benefit of working from home, is that I’m less dehydrated. If only to get a break from my screen, I switch some of my calls to phone only, which means I can wander downstairs and make a cup of tea. There hasn’t been room on the desk for a pot of tea, but that might be the solution for mid-afternoons now that I’ve reorganised a bit.  Anyway, lots more tea in my future, I hope, as I cling desperately to the idea of working from home for the long term and bat away the anxiety provoked by the thought of having to leave the house on a regular basis. And, breathe.


I’ve done a very poor job of tracking what I’m reading this year, but I’ve got the TBR shelf down to a single layer. My bookcases are all full, though, and I don’t have any room for the rapidly expanding number of Greek textbooks. There is one more wall where a half height bookcase could fit, but it’s an awkward width so will need to be made to measure. The list of ‘things to be done when people can come to the house and do them’ is gradually extending.

In more exciting book news, the Backlisted podcast is back, and they kicked off with Excellent Women by Barbara Pym so I shall re-read that over the next couple of days. I’ve still got some Reachers on the way from Blackwell’s and now I have another order building as books I’ve been waiting for start to hit paperback, and as I realise I don’t still have copies of books I used to own or thought I owned:

  • Earthsea trilogy – Ursula K Leguin. But now I remember I went looking for this in February and decided the lovely hardback was too unwieldy. What I really want are the 70s Puffin copies I first read from the school library.
  • Herodotus Histories – how do I not have this? How do I have Travels with Herodotus but not actually Herodotus? Where did it go?
  • Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym. Backlisted referenced it and I can visualise the cover but I can’t find it. So annoying.
  • A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes. Obvs.
  • Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell.
  • On Chapel Sands – Laura Cumming.
  • A Wreath for the Enemy – Emily Frankau (out of print)
  • The Mabinogi – Matthew Francis. Which includes the story of Blodeuedd, the woman made of flowers, which is of course the story used in The Owl Service by Alan Garner. So then I could re-read that again as well.

It’s such a shame that now when you put in a big book order, they’re delivered in dribs and drabs. I want one box with all of them in one go, so that I get the full excitement of lots of new books at once. Really I want them all in a sort of packing case, hand wrapped in brown paper and string as well, but that’s probably a bit too Charing Cross Road for these benighted times. Bloody progress.