Third strike and you’re out…

Third strikeWe’ve got an ongoing thing in our household, where I ask a question and Daisy says “Told you that yesterday, third strike and you’re out”.  I spend so much time concentrating on the daily grind that I can’t be sure if it’s a genuine lack of concentration or the start of something more ominous, but one thing’s for certain – the months creep by, the crow lines round the eyes get deeper and you’d be pushed to call them laughter lines any more…and meanwhile the list of the number of books unread seems to be getting ever longer not shorter.

Since picking up that blogging gauntlet just 12 months ago and dauntingly plunging into WordPress, a whole new world has opened up before my very eyes and it has been a true joy to share in this innocent yet oh so deeply fulfilling passion that is to be found in the written word with so many fellow minded bibliophiles.  Daisy is keen to go off and study History in 18 months, and that has attuned us all the more here on the home front to words and wordsmiths every which way past, present and future. Watching a seventeen year old develop an equally almost obsessive love of literature will forever be an unbridled thrill.

It’s a funny old thing with this baring of souls to a known and an invisible public, though. At 53 I’m not sure I’ll ever get my head around the momentary whirl and instant fix of Instagram or all this social media, sigh. It’s obviously not an age thing, and maybe it is in someway related to the poor old brain feeling addled by not being able to hold onto something or retrieve it at a later stage as an aid to memory (a brief flirtation with Snapchat left me bristling with palpitations – my version of hell on earth, truly). So blogging does feel like a good compromise – it’s sort of a lasting way to set something temporary on the plate, if that makes any sense?

IMG_1334The downside to it is of course the time factor. Went to Shakespeare and Company to meet (well, not personally) Sebastian Faulks last week and hear his take on his latest novel. Love physically meeting the People who are in Print and can never resist an opportunity for an autograph – another blast from the past, and will ever regret not going up to join the endless queue when Zadie Smith was at the same famous bookstore last summer.

Faulks’s “Where My Heart Used to Beat” was not a standout for me in the way that “Birdsong” definitely was (although whether the abiding memory is of his text or the vision of a dashing Eddie Redmayne remains to be decided), but it does deal a lot with the importance of memory, and that reminded me a great deal of the excellent but harrowing “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”, so recently read, where Flanagan pontificates a lot over everything that just gets lost when a person’s memory of something is lost or the individual no longer exists. Tricky stuff.

Sebastian F. explained that the title of this new book was inspired by Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and a thing of beauty it is too :

… Where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, not as one that weeps
I come once more; the city sleeps
I smell the meadow in the street;

I hear a chirp of birds; I see
Betwixt the black fronts long-withdrawn
A light-blue lane of early dawn, 
And think of early days and thee,

And bless thee, for thy lips are bland,
And bright the friendship of thine eye;
And in my thoughts with scarce a sigh 
I take the pressure of thine hand.

Wendy has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers and is raising awareness all around the UK and cataloguing her journey on her “Which Me am I Today” blog. My eyes misted over this morning reading Alison Bolas’s guest post, the piece is so beautifully written. She concludes that “one day at a time is just fine with me” and I’m joining her on that one in every way. Most of my days are spent haring around dreaming up ways to ensure people on holiday here in Paris have a perfect stay, and despite the sometimes frantic, Last Minute Dot Com nature of the job, it gives great satisfaction when you can really make people’s day. It’s hardly the most altruistic job in the world, but a little kindness goes a very long way in this mad world, I hope.

So many funny tales that will sadly get lost in the swirls of the memory, from managing to hunt down a ridiculously expensive but very significant bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 for a granny in remission bringing her grand-daughter for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to her favourite city, to leaving surprise bouquets of flowers and little misty-eyed-guaranteed messages for partners to discover on Valentine’s Day, to getting stuck in a cranky lift between the fourth and the fifth floor at midnight one evening never to be forgotten, delivering something for an early arrival next day… But whether that particular book will ever get written only time will tell.

In the meantime am practically suffering from Tsundoko * Syndrome, read about in one of Lucy’s always hilarious posts with Sarah at Hard Book Habit, and have realised it’s time to redress a few balances and get on with some actual reading rather than the constant niggling compilation of list upon list. Found myself spending a couple of very pleasurable hours a couple of weeks ago collating a line-up of books based in Paris. Had to stop and pause for breath when it went the other side of a hundred titles.

So that led me full circle to something I read a very long time ago. Susan Hill decided back in 2009 that she would take a sabbatical year and revisit her own bookshelves, resulting in her work “Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home”. She starts by confessing “I buy too many books, excusing impulse purchases on the vague grounds that buying a new paperback is better for me than buying a bar of chocolate”. So far so good, and it’s the quiche that always tempts me more than the M&Ms, but not to digress. Still on the choccy front, Ms Hill goes on to say, “Some people give up drink for January or chocolate for Lent, others decide to live for just a pound a day, or without buying any new clothes… I decided to spend a year reading only books already on my shelves… I wanted to stand back and let the dust settle on everything new, while I set off on a journey through my books”. Many of us did this with James’s three-month-long “Triple Dog Dare” challenge at the beginning of this year, and I can’t thank him enough for stemming my flow on the book-buying front.

Time being so much of the essence at the moment, I have decided that I am going to stem the flow on blogging about ‘what I thought of this book’ front too, and take a sort of variation on the Susan Hill Sabbatical. Will continue to follow everyone’s blogs with rapture, and will update my many lists compiled on Literary Ramblings over this past year with the compulsive habit of needing to give my reads marks out of 10 as always, but will concentrate on the sheer reading of old and new, and take these next twelve months to see how well I can do on simply making my way through those Classics and those Baileys’ shortlisted novels between now and the Spring of next year.

It seems only right to go out with one more list though – not sure if our choices will coincide, but Susan Hill concludes her book with her Final Forty, a very British list of its times if ever I saw one. Will aim to produce one of my own this time next year – in the meantime, it’s been and it’s going to be a lot of fun…

Susan Hill’s “The Final Forty” :

  1. The Bible
  2. The Book of Common Prayer
  3. “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens
  4. “The Mayor of Casterbridge” by Thomas Hardy
  5. “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare – 9/10
  6. “The Ballad of the Sad Café” by Carson McCullers
  7. “A House for Mr Biswas” by V.S. Naipaul
  8. “The Last September” by Elizabeth Bowen
  9. “Middlemarch” by George Eliot – 10/10, a favourite read
  10. “The Way We Live Now” by Anthony Trollope
  11. “The Last Chronicle of Barset” by Anthony Trollope
  12. “The Blue Flower” by Penelope Fitzgerald
  13. “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf
  14. “A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster
  15. “Washington Square” by Henry James – 10/10
  16. “Troylus and Criseyde” by Geoffrey Chaucer (read at school, this would never ever make my Top 1,000)
  17. “The Heart of the Matter” by Graham Greene
  18. “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton – 9/10, (Lily an abiding vision in my mind’s eye)
  19. “The Rector’s Daughter” by E.M. Mayor
  20. “On the Black Hill” by Bruce Chatwin
  21. “The Diary of Francis Kilvert”
  22. “The Mating Season” by P.G. Wodehouse
  23. “Galahad at Blandings” by P.G. Wodehouse
  24. “The Pursuit of Love” by Nancy Mitford
  25. “The Bell” by Iris Murdoch
  26. “The Complete Poems of W.H. Auden”
  27. “The Rattle Bag”, edited by Seamus Heaney & Ted Hughes
  28. “Learning to Dance” by Michael Mayne
  29. “Flaubert’s Parrot” by Julian Barnes
  30. “A Time to Keep Silence” by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  31. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
  32. “Family and Friends” by Anita Brookner
  33. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë – 10/10
  34. “The Journals of Sir Walter Scott”
  35. “Halfway to Heaven” by Robin Bruce Lockhart
  36. “The Finn Family Moomintroll” by Tove Jansson – 8/10, read to Offspring a lifetime ago
  37. “Clayhanger” by Arnold Bennett
  38. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky – after “The Brothers Karamazov” fills the heart with dread, but Daisy says is brilliant, so should gird the old loins…
  39. “Amongst Women” by John McGahern
  40. “The Four Quartets” by T. S. Eliot – 10/10.

For now, over and out, and happy reading to one and all.

 * Images taken from herehere and here, thanks to Hard Book Habit for the Tsundoko image shamelessly copy and pasted…
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25 Responses to Third strike and you’re out…

  1. lsalak says:

    Oh dear! I hate it when things come to an end; however, I shall try to concentrate on my admiration of your voracious reading and cogent writings about your readings. I do like Daisy’s use of the baseball terminology (unless . . . is it also relevant to cricket?);, “three strikes you’re out” I suspect she’d be hard put to explain what goes on in baseball and yet there’s this term used so aptly. Anyway, congratulations on your wonderful blog and good luck on your next endeavors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TimPa59 says:

      In cricket the term ‘third strike’ doesn’t exist… if you’re out, you’re out first time! Americanisation of global culture marches on. But then, there’s nothing wrong with popcorn…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Liz, are you still in Bx? Ever come to Paris? This is part of the ongoing problem – just keeping abreast of things… Yes, you are right, no-one this end has a clue about baseball and the comment even came right out of left flank for me, but I did like it. Oh for more hours in the day, or less interesting things taking up less time! xx


  2. TimPa59 says:

    Dear Nicola, Oh my! Your literary ramblings have been an utter joy and it’ll be so sad not to receive those emailed messages announcing another, always fascinating, review. Perhaps next year you can write more and read less? In any event, looking forward to discussing a book or two when we next meet (quite soon). Like you, I find the daily grind shuts out rather too much. T x

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a joy to have all these soldiers lined up and you know how much I like ticking that Done list, so hoping to fly my way through a book a week like in the good old days. I think I used up 6 months’ worth of reading power with the magnificent War & Peace in January maybe. Just hope I remember what I’m reading… Realised after the S Faulks thing that I merrily gave the Girl at the Lion d’Or a hearty 8/10 whenever I read it and could I tell you a thing about it ??


  3. Deborah says:

    Oh no! Now how will I decide what to read next? I will miss your blog dreadfully – it’s like having a (admittedly slightly one- sided) chat at bookclub in my Paris days. Thank you for lots of enjoyment and inspiration. Looking forward to seeing you in just a few weeks! Good luck for Daisy’s exams! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Simply cannot wait to see you – will be just like the good old days and we will find a way to carry on sharing book thrills – I’ve still got some of the titles you mentioned on my Wish List 2015, don’t know if you spotted that – and the “tidy up the clutter” book never made it onto any list at all yet – although it needs to! It’s just a pause while I catch my breath a bit and am still going to jot down bits and bobs here and there to be full of fond memories looking back over these forthcoming reads, very excited to be unleashed on myriads of pages for this year to come. See you very soon, can’t wait!!! xx


  4. FictionFan says:

    I understand what you mean about time and the endless playing with lists cutting into actual reading time. But I will miss your posts… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It feels selfish of me to bemoan you giving yourself a break to just enjoy catching up with reading! I’ll really miss your posts though, and the tantalising glimpses they give into the life of a bibliophile in Paris (‘Went to Shakespeare and co’ etc). Happy reading, and I’m pleased to hear you’ll still be updating us on your progress…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so going to enjoy following your literary trails and fantastic write-ups in the meantime – am jotting down snippets of my reads as I go and will keep the posts with lists updated to leave a kind of snail’s trail of where I’m at. I can tell I’m not going to be able to resist creating a “books set in Paris” list in parallel, so will be fun to see where I’m at with that by this time next April. Maybe I’ll have become so organised that I’ll have the words ready ahead of time! Anyway, will be commenting with gusto on your reviews in the meantime – onwards and upwards!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Giuse says:

    Oh this is a very bad news! I really enjoyed your posts and you helped me so much in choosing my books. I will miss your fantastic descriptions of the books and of the characters and I am sorry to tell you that I will bother you personally looking for new books to read (as I used to do before the blog)! Thank you Dear Nicola and be back soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Giuse, you are on and will look forward to sharing lots of discussions and book titles like before – and look forward to reading more Italian authors too, so you will have to recommend on that front from your side as well !! the lists are endless… lots more in store. xxx


  7. Monique Pannetier says:

    Oh no Nicola!!! What is to become of me, in a faraway land, without your wonderful reviews and recommendations! I like Guise’s comment actually, and will ask you personally for advice…you think you can get rid of your readership easily?? And maybe, just maybe, you will be so tempted during this sabbatical upon finishing a book that you will not resist reviewing it!
    But I do understand your desire to spend more time reading. So farewell in this sea of books and come back refreshed next Spring, we will all be here waiting !!
    Carpe diem
    Monique xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bet, Monique! we can carry on sharing our love of all these great titles – in whatever way, shape or form it takes. Will be great, am really looking forward to continuing with a variation on the old theme. Which reminds me, what are you reading at the moment? xxx


      • Monique says:

        Sorry just saw that. Am reading “The Japanese Lover” from Isabel Allende, not as mellow as the title suggests, about this long standing relationship between a Polish girl immigrating to the US during WW2 and the Japanese family gardener. Love isabel Allende’s storytelling not set this time in her usual Latin America world, but always looking at the way foreigners are considered in a different country. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Keep me posted on the reading front – and see you here very soon! xx


  8. You will be missed Nicola! I wish you many happy reading hours over the next 12 months 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely piece, Nicola. We’ll miss you. Bus as I arrived to your blog fairly late – there are lots of posts to catch up with!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Helen – I will be following your cinematic pieces with joy – went to see L’Avenir last night and was quite an interesting slant on Life After Marriage. Isabelle H did a really good job I thought – lots of determined ‘putting her best foot forward’ and the plot did not go the expected route. It was quite slow in parts, but overall thought it was a good job well done. Look forward to your take on it as and when you see it.
    Meantime, am sinking my teeth into the Baileys’ shortlist and making notes as I go, so will look forward to returning with a vengeance at a later stage! x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hopefully I’ll see it soon – there’s a Huppert season soon at the French Institute/cine lumiere. Am going to see her in Phaedra at the Barbican in June – can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

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