Oh boy am I happy today. Oh boy am I counting my blessings. Oh boy life is great.
The reason for this effusion of delight? OK, I now live off a pension and today for the first time in years, made out a shopping list, priced it out and stuck to it rigidly. No more grabbing of glossy magazines (I mean do I really need to see the latest pics of a WAG wedding? Well, I did so I stood by the rack and read the mag, not that you really read Hello you just look at the pics and I saved myself £2), no more buying of free range eggs from hens who have gone back packing round the world and have dined off the finest hen food (and yes I am sorry about this but they are just incredibly expensive); no more grabbing of Tesco's Finest/Sainbsury's be Good to Yourself/Marks & Spencer meals because I am shattered at the end of a day in London. I can now take my time and purchase proper food and, what is more, cook it.
And so, here you have your answer. I am Happy because today, when it is sweltering, where the sweat trickled down my back while shopping, where the car was like an oven, I don't have to COMMUTE TO LONDON any more. O joy O rapture. This time last year when we had a heat wave, the overhead power cables came down (could not stand the heat), there were fires by the side of the track (probably locals having a barbie), all the trains came to a grinding halt, half the trains are old stock with no air conditioning, there were delays and frustrations and on at least one occasion I came home via Stansted Airport (True).
So I am sitting here, posting to you all, just watching Soderling and Federer come out on the Centre Court (must say I think Federer looks an absolute plonker in his new outfits) and oh dear they have wheeled out Tim Henman to exchange platitudes with Sue, who has surpassed herself this year with the utter hideousnness of her outfits, and I can watch this right the way through. I can watch the entire afternoon right the way through. And with digital, after the BBC broadcast has packed in, I press the Red Button and can watch even more. There is some talk that the new roof may be closed because it is too Hot. Bet the Wimbledon Committee never thought that would happen.........
All of the above is why I am happy and why I feel life is great. And the matter of needing to earn a bit more cash, well I have a plan and will be putting it into operation next week when Wimbers is over and I can concentrate a bit more.
Off now to prepare a little light lunch, perhaps some cold chicken and salad and I have some strawberries and cream lined up as well - what else when watching Wimbledon?
Last year I read Peony in Love by this author and only because the book was sent to me, would not have looked at it otherwise, but very glad I did and I loved it as you can see from my review here.
I have three more of this author on my to be tackled pile but this is her latest and it dropped through my letterbox a week or so ago and it came to Hay on Wye with me (just in case I had nothing to read you understand...), and I soon became engrossed.
"Shanghai 1937. Pearl and May are two sisters from a bourgeois family...both are beautiful, modern and living a carefree life until the day their father tells them he has gambled away the family's wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to two 'Gold Mountain' men: Chinese who have emigrated to America"
Before they can follow their husbands to the US, Japanese bombs fall on Shanghai and the two sisters set out across southern China to escape their invaders and try to catch the ship that will take them to America. I will not go into details of all they go through during this journey though it is pretty dreadful but concentrate on their life in America when they eventually manage to get there. Both Pearl and May are kept for months in an anti-China detention centre pending their entry into the country, May hiding a secret during this time that could result in their deportation if discovered. They manage to outwit their interrogators and begin their new married life in Los Angeles's Chinatown though the land of the free and opportunity is not as they imagined and both of them have to work hard, living in a small cramped apartment with their in-laws.
Shanghai Girls spans twenty years and gradually the two sisters become assimilated into the US culture and view their newly adopted country as home, though they both still yearn for Shanghai. They suffer racial discimination and anti-Communist paranoia but are determined to gain their citizenship as Pearl has a daughter, Joy, an American born daughter whose birth anchors the rest of the family as residents of the US. However, FBI agents are constantly on the look out for fake immigrants, 'paper sons' and 'paper wives', Chinese who are not related at all but have paid to be adopted by a family so they can enter the US.
This is a totally different book from my first experience of Lisa See, Peony in Love, which was full of after-life customs and the Chinese culture and which I found fascinating. This is set just before the Second World War, though the Chinese customs and beliefs underpin the description of life in Los Angeles and their striving for acceptance. By the end of the story, the lure of China has called back a member of the family, but this is now the China of Mao Tse Tung and we are left not knowing what will happen when she enters Communist China. Will she be able to return or will she be trapped for ever in a country where the Shanghai of the past no longer exists?
As with Peony in Love, a slow start but I knew that this would be a slow burner and I was right. Once I had settled down, given myself time and quiet to read, I became totally engrossed and even surrounded by all my purchases in Hay, I ignored them and read to the end of Shanghai Girls.
I have two others by Lisa See awaiting me, one of which is autobiographical and tells the story of her family so this is now going to the top of my To be Read Pile when I get Fed up of Watching Wimbledon (and htis will probably happen when Svetlana Nincompoopova is playing Katerina Boringova on No 19 court and screaming all the while).
Bloomsbury do publish some lovely books and are also lovely people and this is not just because they sent me shoals, dear me no, that has nothing to do with it of course.
Have several book reviews to do but have to report that I have spent nearly all day watching the tennis which has been really entertaining. Had to finish off the fifth set of a match in the men's singles which I watched till 9.45 pm last night and had to be abandoned as the light was really bad, then Murray came out and obliterated his opponent, then there was another late night match between Ferraro (wonder if his nickname is Rocher?) of France against Gonzalez of Chile which also went to five sets on a packed No 1 court and was simply hugely entertaining and full of brilliant shots, and I have been glued to the sofa all day and am now exhausted. And I was only watching.
Have to say that the good matches, the interesting matches and the fun matches have all been in the Men's Singles event. The women have been soooooo boooooring and the inevitable Williams sister final looms which I shall not bother watching as I will not care who wins.
Today two women's seeds went out to a qualifier and a German teenager respectively and that has gingered things up a bit, but sadly those two meet in the next round so one of them will be gone. Not a vintage Wimbers so far but shaping up nicely.
I now feel exhausted just from watching and feel as if I have been slamming forehands, backhands and cross court volleys around the Centre Court so am taking myself off to the locker room in a bit.
Normal (book) servicee will be resumed tomorrow and thought you might like to see this picture taken on our way to Hay from which you will see just how gorgeous the weather was.
Well settling back in today and catching up on emails and posts and downloading pictures and generally taking it easy. Wimbledon is on at the moment, of course, and looking forward to spending most of the next ten days glued to the box. One advantage, now I have digital which is still a novelty, is the fact that I can press a button and carry on watching long after the broadcast has finished. Last night there was a simply terrific mixed doubles on with Jamie Murray featuring and this went to three sets and the rat a tat tat of incredibly close shots backwards and forwards across the net, was huge fun and exciting to watch. It did not finish until 9.45pm and I was able to see it all. Wonderful.
I will be writing about Hay on Wye over the next few days but here is a picture of my spoils. I am currently tracking down the novels of D E Stevenson. Both Bloomsbury and Persephone have recently reprinted two of her titles and I do hope the consider doing some more. All her books are out of print and difficult to find, but I managed to find two and was pleased with that until my sister, Judith, and I ended up at Addyman Books.
Now I am going to be honest here and say that some of the bookshops in Hay were a disappointment. We were given a leaflet with details of all the locations of the stores and we marked up 22 which sounded interesting and then prioritized down to 17. That is still a hell of a lot of bookshops to get through and we doubted even if we only allowed half an hour in each one if we would cover them all (and we have to have a pit stop every now and then for rest and refreshment). However, we positively zapped through the first half a dozen. For me, a second hand book shop, means OLD second hand books, but most of those we first called on were NEW secondhand books, shelves of stuff that I could find in any charity shop or market stall anywhere in the country. I found a lot of PG Wodehouse, all of which I seized upon but then left when I saw the prices. A tatty second hand paperback at £3.50 or £4.00 is not a bargain or a find when for an extra £1 I could order a new copy of the title from Amazon, so these went back on the shelves.
One bookshop had nobody in charge at all - it was a small room lined with shelves of books and a sign 'Hardback 50p, paperbacks 30p - please put money in the box'. And people did. I was rummaging around a high shelf and found a book lurking at the back which I pulled out and it turned out to be an old battered copy of The Jasmine Farm by Elizabeth von Arnim. I already have this but was not going to leave it behind and have duly passed this onto a friend who has just started reading this author.
OK, so back to Addyman Books where I struck gold. My sister was rummaging and she said 'Elaine, what's the name of that author you were looking for?' 'D E Stevenson' 'Oh well there are a few here'.... I swept the entire shelf into my bag.....
Then upstairs to a simply glorious room wall to wall, floor to ceiling with hundreds of books I would have bought if I had the money and the space and a sofa to recline on while you are contemplating your purchases. Lots of Richmal Crompton (fortunately, I had all these titles so my credit card was safe for a bit); some Delafield (one went into my bag); a very good copy of Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, my original copy went missing years ago; and then my sister spotted three hard back first editions of some more D E Stevenson. I really yearned for these but as I had already reached the end of my budget (even with a discount the bookseller gave me) I regretfully told Jude I could not afford them and put them back. It was either them or the EM Delafield which was expensive, and so I was totally delighted when Judith said she hadn't given me a birthday present this year so she would buy these three titles for me. Big hug and I was thrilled to bits.
The bookseller then asked who else I was interested in and I reeled off some names and he immediately honed in on Angela thirkell. 'Oh I have got a box of hers out the back ready to be priced. Do you want to take a look?' NO!! I shrieked I simply daren't and despite his urgings I resisted. I left him my card and said he could email me the details when I was at a distance and could resist a bit more, but when I checked my emails the next day, the list had been sent to me almost straight away...he was obviously hoping to catch me before I left and I can only admire his salesmanship. I have not yet looked at the list....
Oh and I came across a copy of the Making of a Marchioness for only £2. Look at this lovely title page and illustration. Yes, I know I already have two copies but could not leave this behind. It was dusty and unloved and had obviously been there (in the Hay Cinema Bookshop) for some time, so home it came with me.
I am back, tedious drive today, very hot and I peeled myself out of the car when I finally arrived home and I have have had a simply lovely time and the weather was glorious and all was wonderful and I am writing this watching Andy Murray simply making mincemeat of his opponent on the Centre Court at Wimbledon (never thought I would use that sentence about an English tennis player but he is really awesome today), and am really glad to be home. No matter how much I enjoy going away it is so good to be back.
Will be downloading photographs etc this evening and tomorrow will be writing all about my trip which also took in a visit to Hereford Cathedral where we saw the Mappa Mundi and the Magna Carta, and on the way back stopped off to visit Ledbury, a medieval market town. A wonderful trip.
Andy has just won - he totally pulverised his opponent. Hooray!!
One of the joys of my new kitchen was getting rid of my old cooker. Now I know a workman should never blame his tools for his failures, but I had never made a single decent cake in the one that has just been chucked out and so I was keen to try the new one out.
So, reclining on my Crock of the Day, a plate bought for 10p in a jumble sale, is my first essay at a sponge in the new oven and thrilled to bits that it came out ok and tasted delicious. Since then I have made another cake and a few batches of scones so I feel I am now set fair.
First of all, comments on the picture of moi on my blog which has vanished. Have had emails off blog about this as well asking Where has it Gone? Somebody has even told me it has made their day to see my smiling face when they log onto Random. Well, blimey is all I can say - never had that effect on anybody before I can tell you now. The explanation is simple, I need to update the banner to say I am no longer a commuting PA blah blah blah...and I have had difficulty getting it sorted. A friend of mine did that banner for me and while I thought I could edit it by using Paint program, which I did, I then discovered that all the empty spaces in the words jOttings and cOmmutinG were white and horrid and did not match the blue background and it all looked a bit weird. So after wrestling with this problem for about an hour, I thought Dash it and What ho (have to watch that I don't start falling into Wooster mode here, getting difficult this week) and abandoned it for the time being.
By the time you read this (fingers crossed I have set it correctly on Typepad), I will be in Leicestershire with my sister from whence we will be sallying forth to Hay on Wye (not the lit fest I hasten to add, I avoid those like the plague in case I bump into Salman Rushdie or Martin Amis) but to visit this place which is FULL OF BOOK SHOPS. Hay has been on my list of Places to visit Before I Die and as I am now fast approaching the twilight of my years and the grey hairs are sprouting (have been for some time actually but a good hairdresser does wonders), have decided the time has come. I have copious lists of books to Look out For and have transferred a little bit of mad money from my savings account to facilitate any discoveries and off we go.
My sister does not like motorways so has devised a route for us which sounds fun. Part of it is down the Fosse Way a simply glorious road through villages made of mellow golden stone, slumbering in the sun, village greens where the sound of willow on bat is music to the ears, the Old Village Pubbe is selling foaming tankards of ale... ok getting carried away here so shall stop. But we are going near Hereford so may nip in and take a gander at the Cathedral and also Ludlow which has a Castle so all in all lots of goodies on the horizon.
As I do not wish any of you to repine during my absence, I am reviving Crock of the Day, that much loved feature of Random in the past for your delight so keep an eye out for that......
I am, of course, working on the assumption that I get this print on a certain date thingy right, and that typepad does what I tell it to do.
Got to London yesterday eve to find that Rowan Atkinson was alive and well, had not fallen downstairs or thrown out a splinter and was doing the performance so that was a relief. First hurdle out of way.
However, we had another one to face. I only discovered yesterday that the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane has No Lift. It is a listed building and so English Heritage had said that we all have to hike ourselves up endless stairs to get to our seats (I am reliably informed that there are 35 steps to the Grand Circle where we were sitting) so multiply that by about four, sling the odd ups and downs into the bars and loos etc and you will realise that the hoi polloi up in the gods are punished even more for their poverty by denying them oxygen and finishing them off. My friend Rosemary is very arthritic and cannot do stairs so we had a problem here and after I let fly with a few verbal volleys about discrimination and access for the disabled, I was informed they did indeed have this access but it was only in the stalls. AH HA! shrieked I, so if you are disabled and POOR and cannot afford the stalls it is well toodle pip, goodbye and off you go (well I did'nt quite put it that way but you get the drift).
To cut a long story short, a charming young manager called David then came along and led us through a way that cut out half the steps and let us into the auditorium before anybody else. He also detailed two nice young things to keep an eye on us and could not have been more helpful. Turned out that this was his bread and butter job and what he really wanted to do was to be a singer and he was a tenor with an audition the following week for a bit part in We Will Rock You. Never fails to amaze me how interesting people are behind what looks like an ordinary exterior. Last time Ro and I went to Covent Garden we got into a taxi driven by a man who used to be a chorister and a child singer and actually sang in the children's chorus in Act 1 of Carmen at the Opera House. True.
I am rambling, ok don't say it (nothing new there then). The show was simply wonderful. My two daughters loved Oliver and knew, and still do know, every single word of every single song, as do I and Rosemary threatened me with dire consequences if I joined in while the show was on. I managed it but it was hard and I finally gave in at the very end when practically the entire audience was singing Consider Yourself at the tops of their voices. It was a joyous evening, Rowan Atkinson quite quite brilliant, the Nancy not quite so, the chorus and boys marvellous but the the star of the evening was the set and production. Simply stunning.
The stage at Drury Lane is 80 feet deep and with the perspective and St Paul's in the distance looked even more so, each scene shifted and changed and it was magnificent.
Audience on their feet at the end yelling appreciation. Magical evening.
Oh and as well as going into Lady Brackcell mode at the theatre, I had to do the same at the restaurant where we had arrived early for a meal before hte show, waited 50 minutes for our starters, they then got them wrong, had to wait for replacements and we did not have time to eat our main course. I made my displeasure felt and heard by the entire restaurant and we swep out, my final words being 'And please don't even think of charging us for anything we have eaten or drunk...."
Of course by the end of the evening we were a tad clemmed so sat on the train going home eating the biggest ham and cheese baguette I have ever seen, purchased at Liverpool Street. It was pretty revolting as well but needs must. I do hate eating on trains but as we were surrounded by late night revellers on their way back to the sunny climes of Essex stuffing their faces with Macdonalds, hot pasties, Whoppers, sausage rolls and one man eating sushi, all washed down by pints of Coke, Red Bull and Fanta, we were not out of place.....