Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A First Day of Summer List

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass 
on a summer day listening to the murmur of water,
 or watching the clouds float across the sky,
 is hardly a waste of time." 
John Lubbock

The tiny beads of condensation on the silver dish of ice cream.
The crosshatch etched on bare thighs by outdoor wicker chairs.
The sleepy whirling metronome of the ceiling fan.
The just-caught firefly that makes your fist glow orange in the one brief second before you release it to the night.
The lazy dog dozing with his head in your lap.
The porch ferns.
The blue hydrangeas.
The smell of fresh corn on the grill.
The sound of splashes in the birdbath.
The feel of crisp cool sheets on a hot still night.
The sibilation of sprinklers.
The slap of the old screened door.


It is such irony that the very hour we celebrate the arrival of summer is the very hour we begin the journey into winter.  The days only shorten from here.   Bit by bit, these summer afternoons so beloved by Henry James have their sun-kissed seconds shaved by time, each growing shorter, infinitesimally, hardly noticed, until we lift our faces to a change in the wind and a spell is cast that turns maple greens to russet and daisy yellows to gold.  Of all the seasons, summer seems ephemeral.  Like the sweet beach memories we make at this time, the edges of each summer day feels softly blurred, like the old photographs so many of them are destined to become.  
So close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.
And love each summer day.

Here’s a list of fun things for this new season.

1.  Molton Brown Orange and Bergamot 
As those of you who follow me on Instagram already know, I spent some time in Yorkshire this past April.  A marvelous part of Great Britain, from the gothic moors of Bronte country to the bucolic dales of James Herriot.  Every single day of that journey was completely wonderful.  
For a couple of nights we stayed in a charming little B and B near Fountains Abbey where, on my dressing table, sat a ordinary bottle of hand lotion by Molton Brown.  Now, I’ve encountered this brand before and have always liked it.  But this particular fragrance was intoxicating.  It was as though they had managed to bottle summer.  Fresh grass, orange blossoms, salt water - I almost wanted to put it to my ear to listen for the sea.  Needless to say, I have filled my house with this fragrance since returning home. 
I’m not kidding.  It’s fabulously addictive.
Find it HERE

  2.  For Little Girls
 This would have been my favorite summer shirt when I was little.
Hands down.
Find it HERE

3.  Black Rabbit Hall
by Eve Chase 
The absolutely perfect summer book.
Atmospheric and irresistible.
Loved it.
Find it HERE

4.  Pillows
New Pillows Up Now!
Find them HERE

5.  Gardening Boots and Gloves
Love, love these!
Find them HERE
and HERE

6.  Lily and Lionel Scarves
It’s no secret that I lose my mind in the scarf department at Liberty of London, but it’s certainly a comfort to know I’m not alone.  It’s truly one of the most tempting places on the planet and I usually try and  bring something special back with me each time I’m there.  I’m particularly fond of Lily and Lionel scarves, like the one above.
Isn’t that the perfect scarf for summer?
Find it HERE


7.  Nelly Dean<
by Alison Case
Visiting Bronte country was  a dream come true for me and since returning, I’ve been immersed in everything Bronte, for a special reason. (More about that later)  While I usually steer clear of books that pilfer their plots from the classics, I dipped into this one out of rampant curiosity and could not put it down.  
The story of Nelly Dean, the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights.  
Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I loved it.
Find it HERE.

8.  Genius
If you are a writer.  
If you live with a writer.
If you love books.
Or if you just have a crush on Colin Firth.
Go see this movie.
See the Trailer HERE

9.  Sunny Afternoon
To be completely honest, I purchased these tickets primarily for The Songwriter.
But boy, oh boy, did I have a good time!
Trust me, if you’re in London over the summer….
Go see this!
See more HERE

10.  Julia Reed’s South
Just the most delicious bite of a southern summer
 you’re ever going to have.

Find it HERE

Happy Summer, 
from Edward!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From the Children

From the Children

For the past several nights the weatherman on Channel 4 has been in near hysterics over the heat.  In the manner of an Old Testament prophet he points to the map, now recoloured a blazing orange for ultimate effect, flails his arms and predicts… “Tomorrow will be the hottest day so far this year!”.   As we are in the South, and it is only June, I find this forecast fairly unremarkable.  That said, it is hot, and getting hotter, which means Edward’s normally exuberant enthusiasm for his daily walk has evaporated to a trickle.  Until September he will prefer a game of fetch down the cool hallways of the house.  

So I find myself at the gym more often where my daily walks are done at a much faster pace, in air-conditioned comfort, on the treadmill. This is not as bad as it sounds.  With my music in my ears, I can close my eyes and be practically anywhere, and of course there are lots of opportunities for observation in a public place like this one.  For instance, there is the elderly gentleman who walks the track with sheet music in his hands, singing along all the way.  There is the white-haired old lady who strolls, in heels, with her handbag on her arm.  A statuesque woman who works the track like a catwalk. And then, sometimes, if I’m lucky, on the open floor below me will be a large group of children taking part in some sort of summer camp.  They do gymnastics, practice cheerleading routines, and consume great quanities of Kool-aid and Animal Crackers, a menu that, oddly,  hasn’t changed in half a century.  I find these kids endlessly entertaining and amazingly instructive.  For instance, I’ve noticed they run everywhere they go, and I mean everywhere.  Want to talk to someone over there?  Run!  Want to get something that you left in your backpack over there?  Run!  Want to visit the ladies room?  Run!… and for good measure add a couple of cartwheels as you go!   I watch them running from my sweaty place on the treadmill, feeling the irony most acutely, and marvel again at the easy wisdom of children.  

Thinking about these kids as I run, I recall a report I recently heard on the radio.  Jen and Adam Slipakoff have a transgender child named Allie.  Born a boy named Eli, Allie always knew she was a girl in her head and began transitioning when she was four.  When asked if they ever thought about what it meant to be transgender, or about having a transgender child, Allie’s father said, “Not even a little bit.” 
Concerned about hurtful remarks, one of the family’s neighbors related the instruction she gave her son about how to treat Allie.   She told him, “I just don't want you to point out that Eli is now wearing a dress”.   "And he said, 'What are you talking about?  Like what would you say?' And I said, 'I'm just saying don't, don't say anything that would hurt her feelings.' And he said, 'Why would I do that??’" 

From my spot on the treadmill I gaze down at these children running around below me and see a myriad of skin colours, hair styles, and personalities.  They are all laughing together, obviously enjoying each other’s company with a relish few adults can match.  For them, it’s too soon for prejudice and polarization.  Too soon for suspicion and fear.  Too soon for dogmatism.  Too soon for gun permits.  Too soon for hate.  

A couple of months ago I was invited to read some of my stories to a class of at-risk children, aged five to twelve.   Seems their teacher had read Edward Speaks at Midnight to them at Christmas and they wanted me to visit.  I did, and I had a ball.  At the close of the class I asked if anyone had questions.  An adorable second-grader raised his hand.  “Yes?”, I said.  With honest curiosity and a shimmering intelligence far beyond his years, he looked at me and asked, “What inspires you?”

I don’t remember everything I told him,
 but today as I pray for the world these children will inherit,
  I would say, “You do.”

Listen to the NPR report referenced HERE
and please pray for the people of Orlando.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer Books

Summer Books

In the world of quizzes and personality tests, there is one question that is purported to reveal volumes, or pages at least, about someone:  “Beatles or Rolling Stones?”  I suppose if one answers "Beatles" one is considered more sensitive and artistic and if the answer is “Stones” one is more likely to be recalcitrant and rebellious.  Total rubbish, I know, but fun to talk about. The Songwriter would be squarely in The Beatles camp, as he’s been a lifelong devotee, but he’s almost equally a fan of the Rolling Stones, so when we were in London last month he was delighted to see that a new Rolling Stones Retrospective had just opened at the Saatchi Gallery just around the corner from our beloved hotel, The Draycott.  Of course he was going. 
Now as for me, I can sing along to You Can’t Always Get What You Want with the best of them, but as it happens, my favorite bookshop in the entire world, John Sandoe Books, is also located just around the corner from our hotel.  There was no question which one I was going to choose.  So we kissed farewell on the corner and the Songwriter turned left while I turned right and we both headed off, grinning, to our respective destinations with a meet up time scheduled for two hours later.  
Two hours.  
Two fat hours to spend in John Sandoe Books. 
Bliss.  Heaven.  
And hardly enough time! 
  (You can see my sack full of treasures in the photo below.)

Since I’ve been home I’ve been very busy with writing projects.  I’m trying to finish a huge knitted shawl as a gift for a Scottish friend.  I’m putting together the neighborhood home tour.  But the weather is getting warm and let’s face it… there’s nothing much sweeter than sitting barefoot on the screened porch, underneath a softly twirling ceiling fan, with a glass of sparkling water at my elbow and a big juicy book in my lap.  Yes, it’s time for Summer Reading, which is, in my opinion, one of the primary reasons God invented summer in the first place.  

Here is a list of the books currently in my summer stack,
 or on my shopping list. Just click on the photos to see more.
As always, do share some of yours.
Happy Summer!
(Painting above by Charlie Mackesey)

The King Who Made Paper Flowers
by Terry Kay

The Course of Love
by Alain de Botton

Paradise Lodge
by Nina Stibbe

The Summer Before the War
by Helen Simonson

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
by Chris Cleave

Summer Evening 
by Walter de la Mare

by Annie Proulx

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos
by Dominic Smith

The Violet Hour
by Katie Roiphe

The Echoing Green
Poems of Fields, Meadows, and Grasses

The Old Ways
by Robert Macfarlane

In The Footsteps of Sheep
Tales of a Journey Through Scotland, 
Walking, Spinning and Knitting Socks

by Debbie Zawinski

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck