December Reflections 3: best book of 2022

'Double or Nothing' by Kim Sherwood, 'Wanderlust' by Rebecca Solnit', and 'Art and Lies' by Jeanette Winterson

I haven’t had much brain for reading this year. This stack could just as well have been made up of Agatha Christie and K. J. Charles books, if you interpret ‘best’ as ‘most readable’, and why not? Although since all the K. J. Charleses are on my Kobo it wouldn’t have made such a pretty picture. Also on my Kobo is Light Perpetual (Francis Spufford), which was the first work of litfic I managed to read after Pa died, and I could see how it was put together, which suggested that my writing brain hadn’t entirely deserted me either, and which possibly was my best book of 2022. Maybe Sisters of the Vast Black, too.

Anyway. Double Or Nothing was a really interesting development of the Bond tradition. Wanderlust was history and politics and walking and some really gorgeous prose. Art and Lies was hazy and beautiful and I’m still not entirely sure I really followed it but it doesn’t matter. I could make a case for any of those three being the best of the year, although of course Double Or Nothing was the only one actually published this year.

I Did Not Finish Hamnet, because Magrat!Anne Hathaway was just too much for me. I also gave up on The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, which was just too twee. The most disappointing book that I finished was The Embroidered Sunset, because WTF was that ending?

Week-end will follow tomorrow. I have a cab in ten minutes.

Week-end: return to Yorkshire

A pedestrianised shopping street on a rainy day. Neon lights strung across the street read: Dear Leeds, we are your people/Past present and future

The good

I’m writing this on the train home from York: I’ve had a lovely weekend, using the fact of delivering training in Leeds as an excuse to stay with my friend A (and spare my employer the expense of a night in a hotel). We’ve been drinking tea and chatting and playing board games.

The mixed

Still very tired. But it could be worse: it could have been long COVID, and it isn’t. Another couple of months and I’ll start feeling more human. In the meantime there’s the sofa and a blanket and the cat.

The difficult and perplexing

The awkwardness of mistaking a traffic light for a bus stop and trying to get through a crowd of people who, it turned out, were also trying to get off the bus…

What’s working

New standing desk thingy, though I’m spending some of the time seated, with everything moved down a shelf or so.

Reading

It’s been a week for finishing books. Coastliners (one of those books that took a while to get into and then got gripping); Sisters of the Vast Black (continued to be excellent all the way through; a book about doing the right thing despite everything including the futility of it all; had to spend a few minutes staring into space when I got to the end); Changing Planes (Ursula Le Guin; a Gulliver’s Travels for the jet age; started ages ago, but it’s more a collection of vignettes than a single narrative, so bore dipping into). Then I reread The Moving Finger on the train up to York on Friday evening.

Writing

None, but I’m counting the Leeds excursion as research for the Romeo and Juliet thing.

Making

Secret patchwork things.

Watching

Eurosport. Mostly skating.

Looking at

Hear My Voice: an exhibition of art by refugees at Ely cathedral.

Cooking

Spaghetti Vesuvio.

Eating

Half a Fat Rascal (apparently a Yorkshire thing, maybe specifically a Betty’s thing: a sort of spiced scone with dried fruit and almonds on the top). Just the thing for a Sunday breakfast. Today we went to Trinacria on Bishy Road for lunch; I had an extremely large pizza Vittoria (fennel, tomatoes, sausage, mascarpone).

Playing

Pandemic. We made a pretty good team.

Noticing

Fireworks in the sky as I looked back over Leeds, with a sunset squashed under black rainclouds. Square grey stone housing and elaborate Victorian red brick Gothic. Rainbow in the east. Deer in the fields outside Ely.

Appreciating

Seat reservations. Friends.

Line of the week

From Changing Planes:

The people sing at the campfires, and the quiet singing hovers in the darkness between the little fires and the stars.

This coming week

A couple of days of work and then a few days off. Maybe I’ll do some writing. Maybe I’ll catch up on sleep.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: one with the sofa

A cresent moon against a pale peach-coloured sky in the gap between silhouetted bushes.

The good

I didn’t come remotely close to crying at work. The Bicycles and Broomsticks Kickstarter is fully funded, and I had fun watching the numbers go up. I’ve spent a lot of time lounging on the sofa alternating novels and the skating on TV, with the world’s fluffiest cat. Life’s not bad.

The mixed

Still tired, mind you. And a fifty-minute walk leaves me needing a sit-down instead of waking me up, the way it used to. But it is beautiful outside.

Hence the Guilt. I’d meant to be down on the Isle of Wight this weekend, to help out with the continued house clearing. Staying at home was the right decision, but I’d still like to be helping, and I’m still not. And clearly my family don’t need me wailing at them, so I’m not. I’m just wailing over here instead.

The difficult and perplexing

A nasty combination of self-doubt and jealousy of my contemporaries.

What’s working

I got myself a fancy Sicilian soft drink and a packet of pistachio nuts and sat down with a clearer-headed, wiser version of myself who doesn’t give a damn what other authors of my generation are up to. We discovered that what would actually help would be clearing my study up a bit.

Reading

Continuing with Sisters of the Vast Black, which is so lovely that I’ve been saving it for moments when I can devote my attention to it and enjoy it. Coastliners (Joanne Harris) floated to the top of the TBR pile and I read the first few chapters. #ChristieBracket prompted me to reread first The Pale Horse and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? In both cases I’d remembered part, but not all, of the solution. In The Fellowship of the Ring I’ve just got to Rivendell.

Writing

Some more on Starcrossers (now two and a half thousand words too long…) and an explanation for my pitiful absence of sales strategy.

Making

A new mystery patchwork project. This one’s rather smaller than the last. Good job too: it has a tight deadline.

Watching

Doctor Who! Having rather fallen out of the most recent series, I really enjoyed that. It was ninety per cent fanservice and I’m not thinking too hard about the plot, but it was a load of fun.

Also, lots of skating.

Cooking

I have a pancetta and blue cheese risotto going in the slow cooker at the moment. We’ll see how it turns out. (You cook the whole lot and throw the cheese in at the last minute.)

Noticing

A low young moon.

In the garden

Still two white roses. This is always the first bush to bloom, but it’s not usually the last to stop. Lovely, anyway.

Appreciating

Fluffiness of cat. Fit of new tights.

Acquisitions

Some frippery from Paperchase – a stamp set and washi tapes. The parcel I missed turned out to be, as expected, a hoodie from Quires & Places Where They Meme (look, if other people can have Christmas jumpers then I can have an Advent hoodie). A new shredder (had nearly been running out of shredded paper to feed to the compost bin since the last one broke!) and a plywood contraption to raise my laptop to shoulder height. It’s bigger than I’d expected. We’ll see how it goes: work days will be the real test.

Picked up Golden Hill (Francis Spufford) and a DVD of Chorus Line in Oxfam this morning. And a solar lantern in Mountain Warehouse. This is of course prepping for the threatened power cuts this winter, but it’s already proved useful for picking thyme in the dark.

Line of the week

This is from Sisters of the Vast Black:

The moon was just spinning into springtime, but the wine warmed her straight through from her tongue to her fingertips.

Saturday snippet

Still on Starcrossers:

I’d seen the news pieces. I knew that there’d been a lot of clearage and repair. And I’d reminded myself that I would have to go in at the citizens’ gate. All of which is to say, I expected it to be achingly familiar and horribly changed, and I was right, and I don’t think expecting it helped at all. I couldn’t go into the inner hall (though if I was going to be Leader we were going to have to work something out) but looking from the promenade I could see the shimmering cover that patched the hole where there had once been a column and a graceful arching roof…

This coming week

The clocks go back; we move into November. Usually I count this as the beginning of winter, but it’s still so warm that maybe I won’t just for the minute. But it’s going to be quite a busy, social week, with a milestone (a transition, perhaps?) to be marked and negotiated as well.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!