Having – somewhat to my surprise – filled an entire bingo card on the Indie Challenge last year, I had a vague idea of quitting while I was ahead, and not doing any reading challenges this year. Then I was messing around on Twitter and found a couple that looked a) interesting and b) manageable.
- The #EU27 project. This involves reading one book from each of the 27 EU countries that aren’t the UK. I’m late to the party on this one, as it began when Article 50 was triggered, and here we are over two years later. I’m going to miss being part of the European Union, and I rather like the idea of this challenge as a way to remain connected with the rest of Europe in at least a small way. I will write up books from this challenge on this blog. The majority will be translations: my French is good enough to read Jules Verne in the original, if not Colette (mind you, I get bogged down in Colette in English, too) but I don’t think I can say the same for my smattering of German and Spanish, let alone my opera fan Italian – and that’s as far as my languages go.
- #TBR20, which involves making one’s first twenty reads of the year books which one already possesses, and which appears to be a descendant of the TBR Dare (which involved reading only books that one already possessed for the first three months of the year). Since I’m likely moving house in March, this seems like a useful discipline, and I’m going to go for both goals: the first twenty and the first three months. I won’t be reporting back on these unless they also count towards #EU27.
The other thing I’m trying to do is use Goodreads and LibraryThing more. I don’t do star ratings, which in my experience are pretty much meaningless, but I will be posting text reviews. We’ll see how it goes…
Denmark: A Poet’s Bazaar (Hans Christian Andersen)
I would seek you
as the cat seeks the soft-edged square of sunlight;
eyes half-closed to see
the sacredness suffusing
in which you found me.
I mentioned yesterday that earlier this year I attended an event called Thoughtful Eating. Much of what was said there wasn’t new to me. But the conclusion – an attempt at a Biblical approach to food – sparked something in me. In particular, two words: delight and sharing. They’ve stuck with me through this year.
So I put delight and sharing at north and south for my 2020 compass. The rest of the qualities fitted in around them.
I expect 2020 to be difficult in many ways, and exciting in many ways, and enjoyable in many ways, and challenging in perhaps all of those ways. I wish to approach it seeking (look, there it is at south-east) for delight.
Delight, at north, is really another form of sharing: it’s noticing the good things that have been shared with me, seeing the holiness of them, and, if I can, sharing those things and that delight with others.
As, for example, the moment, looking back at almost the last daylight of 2019, when a swan swooped overhead just as I had my phone out to take a picture of bare trees against a clear, clear sky, wheeled around with a keen whirr of wings.
… surprising and exciting developments.
Perhaps they shouldn’t be surprising. When in the autumn we added up the balances of our various savings accounts and found that they made a mortgage deposit, that was after many years of channelling a direct debit in that direction.
The opportunity to serve on a Cursillo weekend. I wrote a couple of days ago about ‘the privilege of loving people’, and this was largely what I had in mind. Making tea for people, putting chairs out for them, washing their hands… it was wonderful.
Good progress on two books. The Real World is more or less there in terms of word count, and I’m looking forward to diving back in with a red pen in a couple of weeks’ time. The Rassendyll Kidnapping is a lot more nebulous, but a whole load of plot came together in my head at the beginning of December, and I got most of it down before I forgot it again.
Time with family and friends – particularly a week with my family at and around Ventnor Fringe, and a week with the in-laws on a narrowboat on the river Avon, and another week with my friend Anne in York. I’d like to see more of more people next year, though.
The chance to see the best cyclists in the world ride past me.
New people and new places. Theatre. Museums. Good books. Good food. A really interesting talk that made me think about food differently. (The very short version: delight and sharing.) Wide-ranging conversations, leading (I think) to interesting places.
2019 hasn’t been a year of fruition, exactly, but it’s certainly been a year of emerging shoots. And I’m thankful.
Up until five years ago, I lived in places where the horizon was adorned with a decent border of hills, or where the land fell away and fell away and fell away to the sea. I lived in places where hills or sea or both played intermediary between me and the sky.
I’m still learning how to feel at home under this vast pearly, milky, sky; to orientate myself against a horizon that’s low and flat and at once remote and close; to measure myself in a landscape where the tallest thing is a tree, or was built by human hands.
But it’s the same sky: this wide blue-and-white sky; this low, sulky, grey sky; this deep blue, starred sky. It stretches over everywhere I’ve called home, and the places I have yet to call home.
It seems to be where we’re going next. We’ve had an offer accepted on a house out on the north-west edge. It has pear trees in the garden.
I should have taken a photo of the first sight from the south, the cathedral side on, rising up from the flat land around it. The Ship of the Fens, they call it. It doesn’t look very ship-like from here, the middle of town.
Even this year I’ve spent a lot of time in Ely, mostly doing Cursillo-related things. It’s been drawing me towards it. City on a hill, fen-bounded island, eely Ely.
One of my internet friends wrote:
Build a home, put down roots, grow stuff, eat pears
and when I read it something resonated inside me: Yes. This. This is what I want.
I felt something similar at the end of the Midnight Eucharist, very early on Christmas morning:
Go in peace. Proclaim the Word made flesh.
Yes, this. And how that works, how far I stay involved with my current church, what else I do, what lies beyond that, I don’t know. I can only trust that two apparently contradictory wishes are in fact taking me towards the same figurative destination. Anyway, this physical location seems to be the place to investigate things further.
Ely, then. May it be good to us.
… how to move past despair;
… that my understanding of myself and of the world can change quickly and then feel as if it’s always been that way;
… that riding a road bike is similar to, if not just like, riding a bike;
… that the closer I stick to a template for a talk, the more artificial it sounds;
… about the sheer privilege of loving people;
… about who I’m becoming.
Boxing Day tends to involve a lot of food: either leftovers, or food that is not technically leftovers, but only because nobody got around to cooking it. And when you’re combining British and Polish traditions, you end up with two huge meals, and even more food that needs eating afterwards.
This morning I cooked omelettes topped with smoked salmon, which would have been the fifth or sixth course of Tuesday’s Wigilia (Christmas Eve vigil) meal, if we hadn’t been full after several other dishes of fish/soup/pierogi/carrots/more fish. And I meant to take a photo of them for this prompt, but between cooking them and then eating them I completely forgot about it. So here’s a slice of Christmas Eve bread instead.
It really doesn’t matter. Everything I’ve eaten over the last couple of days has been delicious.
I slept last night in a house that’sbbuilt into the side of a hill, so the bedrooms are downstairs, and when you get up, you literally get up. And coming upstairs to see all the trees lit up in this glorious golden morning sunlight lifted my heart into joy.
We were talking last night about the the tendency of people (all over the place, not just here) to think of a bygone golden age, probably coinciding with the year they were about ten, which of course was never really like that. And somebody said, ‘But the golden age is now’.
Today is golden. Today is illuminated with visible light and a deeper light.
Look at that apple tree.
In these quiet days before Christmas I’ve been devising a new scheme for our electronic filing system. As it happened, I found it easier to write out the contents on Post-it notes and then move them around than to do the whole thing on the computer, but that’s fine.
It has to be said that the site was in a bit of a state, and as I’ve been working on this I’ve had in my mind the first of the O Antiphons:
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.