Tuesday, 16 September 2014

My life in books

You might have seen the post on Facebook going round asking you to list ten books that have 'stayed with you'.  After a second friend nominated me I started properly thinking about it, and then started making a list, and then researching authors and titles when I couldn't remember what 'that book' was called.

I read LOADS when I was younger. Monthly trips with Dad to Basingstoke library on a Saturday morning were childhood highlights, and then my sisters and I would spend the afternoon sprawled across sofas, floors and bunkbeds devouring our choices.  The only detention I ever got was for reading a novel in class. Sad but true. Reading taught me to spell, helped me do well at school and taught me quite a lot about American teen culture (among other things, I hope!).

If I liked a book I'd generally read all I could by the same author, which is why I found it very hard to pick just ten books. And why my list includes quite a lot of series. I could be ashamed of my list of books. It does not include many 'classics'. Then again, I've never claimed to have great taste. I just like a good story, really. Also, I haven't read half as many books in the second half of my life. Since I was 14, studies and jobs and a social life have generally replaced reading books and used up my concentration juice.  Now a book has to be quite easy-to-read for me to stick with it, or at least grip me from the beginning, whereas when I was younger I'd rarely ever stop reading a book halfway through (except if it ended up being scary!).

Even as I write this more and more books are popping back into mind (and I wish I had kept a record), I can even picture whereabouts on library shelves they were placed, even if I can't remember the titles or authors. I generally remember the stories though. I can't think of any books I've read more than once, I guess the main draw is wanting to find out what happens, so once I know, I don't really see the point.

So anyways, here's Katrina's list of books she remembers reading  - which I guess makes them all significant in some way, because I'm sure there's tons I don't remember. These are the ones that I've loved, or have inspired me, or I think were written amazingly, or I couldn't put down, or represent certain seasons of my life - you can guess which are which :-)

Vaguely in chronological order...

Famous Five, Mallory Towers and loads of Enid Blyton
Lots by Jacqueline Wilson
Lots by Judy Blume
Adventure series - Willard Price
The Babysitter's club series - Ann M, Martin
Sweet Valley twins series - Francine Pascal
The Street Children of Brazil - Sarah de Carvalho
Little Women and others by Louisa May Alcott
The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
Children of the Voice - Ishmael
The Diary of Ann Frank
BFG then later on 'Boy' and 'Going Solo' - Roald Dahl
The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom
The Surya Trilogy - Jamila Gavin
Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant series - Bodie Thoene


'The Atonement Child', 'The Last Sin Eater' and various others by Francine Rivers
Red Moon Rising - Pete Greig
Blue like Jazz, Through Painted Deserts and others by Donald Miller
Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell
The Shack - William P. Young
Punk Monk - Andy Freeman & Pete Greig
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khalid Hosseini
The Brothers K - David James Duncan
Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux
The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
The New Conspirators - Tom Sine
'Mukiwa: A white boy in Afric'a and 'When a Crocodile Eats the Sun' - Peter Godwin
On writing - Stephen King
Don't lets go to the dogs tonight - Alexandra Fuller
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the rest of her autobiographical books - Maya Angelou
The Fifth Figure - Jean Binta Breeze
The Poet, The Warrior,The Prophet - Rubem Alves
Half of a yellow sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
'The Poisonwood Bible', 'Prodigal Summer' and 'The Lacuna' - Barbara Kingsolver
Mountains of the Moon - I J Kay

I'm sure I'll add to this list as I remember more. Funny a lot of them are non-fiction, but they still told stories or I identified strongly with them in some way...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Falmouth (part 2)

I spent another Saturday in Falmouth and found new places to explore...

Death and beauty everywhere
in hiding places
the game finished long ago

History running through rocks
and veins
the past repeats itself
the past is over
some things are best left forgotten
but not buried
perhaps, not even forgotten

But let go
let fly
A proper goodbye
to summer and mourning
autumn is coming
Winter threatens on the wind

I taste your sadness

Only He
is life-giver
He saw your lonely soul there
he would also
have had secret hiding-walking-light-a-fire places
the cracks spell out hope in these
not forgotten

Maybe you would have started talking
And continued until the stars
switched on
and until he disappeared
said he needed to 'talk to his father'
but after
the night was not so full of fear
and the lapping water echoed his laughter

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

An August full of weddings

I went to three weddings in August!

Someone said I must be addicted, which I'm not sure is quite the right phrase - it wasn't like I invited myself. Haha. Since marriages have dominated my summer weekends I thought it only fitting to write a bit about them, and to share some photos (of course!), because I enjoyed taking pics at all of them. And I'm quite pleased with how they turned out, if I do say so myself. If you're on Facebook you may have already seen a ton of them!

Chris & Esther, Brighton (well, Hove actually!). I met Chris through the Breaking society at Sussex Uni
Since my own wedding, very nearly three whole years ago (mad!), the nuptial scene has been fairly quiet. There was a flurry of 'young Christian marriages' (someone had to say it) between the ages of 20 and 24 and now things have chilled a bit. So I think I appreciated this year's weddings more than some - hate to say it but 6 or seven in a year can get a bit much... - I KNOW they are a special day but hours of high heels and small talk can be a bit of a killer.  High heels and small talk were involved to some extent in the last three weddings BUT so was plenty of great conversations, dancing, beautiful flowers, good food, colour, beauty and a lot of love.

James & Lily, St Ives Harbour. I met Lily at the House of Prayer, when we visited Cornwall in 2012
Weddings can be quite reflective times, partly they because mark what can be a huge change in two people's lives.  I suppose they are a bit of a goodbye as well as a hello.  Wedding guests are all the people who've played an important role in one of both of the couple's life up until that point.  This was highlighted by the longest-groom's-speech-ever this weekend in which Benny, my 'little brother', thanked the whole world INDIVIDUALLY for how they'd shaped his and his new wife's lives. I'll be honest Benny, after 40 minutes and you hadn't got to your family yet we were nearly downing the remnants of the champagne BUT I also think why not? What a great opportunity to celebrate friendship and family how relationships really can save you.  After the wedding, things may never quite be the same, including other relationships.  I don't think that's right or wrong but I guess it's kind of bound to happen.  There's quite a few people I haven't seen since my wedding.  Not by choice, but more life taking us down different paths.

Ben & Jess, Godalming. My mum went to uni with Benny's parents. So I've know him all his life!

As we enter September I'm still in that reflective place, perhaps because the three weddings represented three major parts of my life. One in Brighton, one in St Ives and one in Godalming (with strong links to the not quite so quaint Basingstoke). One for a University friend, one a Cornish-church friend and one a family friend. Two guys who are like brothers and one girl who was quite instrumental in us moving to Cornwall. I didn't know their partners very well, and no one went to any of the other weddings (even hubby only came to one). So three very different worlds, that haven't really overlapped in my almost 28 years. At this last one, my parents and sisters were there, but also friends from primary school AND (unexpectedly) friends from time spent in Ibiza and Spain a few years ago. All I need now is a Zambian wedding and an Oxford wedding and I'd have pretty much all 'homes' covered!

My main ponderings have been about that whole balance of past, present and future.  I've probably mentioned before how I'm prone to nostalgia. Which I reveals itself in my 'need' to document life—in journal entries, blog posts, photos, boxes of letters and cards.  To me the past is what has shaped us into who we are today, and so I feel it's important to remember it, to look back and learn and be thankful.  Maybe if my past had been horrendous I'd feel differently? Maybe if I had a fixed place I belonged to or 'came from' I wouldn't care so much? I know other people have a very different perspective - that today is what matters.

Mr Q doesn't understand why I value photos and old diaries so much (causing slight tension over the amount of shelf space they take up, haha!).  He doesn't really seem interested in my life before I met him. He's interested in who we are now, today. Which I appreciate is probably wise, without feeling able to totally 'get'. I suppose dwelling on the past doesn't really help you move forwards, so I know I probably have some more letting go to do.  Which scares me, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because stories from the past seem more interesting than the current moment, even though I know we look back on things with rose-tinted glasses. Maybe because to me, letting go reduces the value of something, or someone. But perhaps that isn't true either.

I'm considering writing a memoir about my time growing up in Zambia. Partly because I don't want to forget. Maybe once I've done that, I'll feel more able to let go? Is that a good reason to write something?

I don't know. As with many things there probably isn't a wrong or right and it's probably about finding some sort of elusive balance.  Other people might get overly caught up in the future, in worrying or dreaming or making extensive plans (or all three) and missing out on the present in the process.  Then again maybe we need the mixture of historians and prophets and the right-here-right-now-ers.

It's not easy, this BE-ing present in the present. Not at all. I think for me it requires more intentionality rather than drifting along, including being still on purpose, and being OK with who I am and where I am today.

How about you? Where do you find yourself dwelling?

PS I know I went a bit off track but Hooray for the newlyweds, I'm privileged to be/have been a part of their lives :-)

PPS This is my 701st blog post. MAD.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Saturday out in Falmouth

Yesterday we escaped from Penzance for a few hours to go and explore Falmouth a little.  I love the colour and creativity, along with the usual funny contrasts and interesting characters that Cornwall seems to abound in!  It was good to have a change of scene even though we've only been back for a week...  

 Beerwolf Books - the smell of books and beer - and a new, very reasonably priced poetry book. woop.

 Amanzi, a restaurant serving African food.  We had South African lager and Bunny Chow for lunch. mmm.

Monday, 11 August 2014

"Sweet Potato" - New favourite song lyrics

We're back in the South West after fun and restful times in Wales and Brighton.

Good things about today: walking along Penzance prom after work, wandering back through Morrab gardens, and listening to Sia all day.  These lyrics are awesome!

 "Sweet Potato"

She cooks you sweet potato
You don't like aubergine
She knows to boil the kettle
When you hum bars from Grease
She senses you are lonely
But still she can't be sure
And so she stands and waits
Stands anticipating

How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you
How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you

He brushes thoroughly
He know she likes fresh breath
He rushes to the station
He waits atop the steps
He's brought with him a mars bar
She will not buy nestle
And later he'll perform
A love-lorn serenade, a trade

How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you
How can she become the psychic that she longs to be to understand you

So give her information to help her fill the holes
Give an ounce of power so he does not feel controlled
Help her to acknowledge the pain that you are in
Give to him a glimpse of that beneath your skin

Now my inner dialogue is heaving with detest
I am a martyr and a victim and I need to be caressed
I hate that you negate me, I'm a ghost at beck and call
I'm falling and placating, and berating myself for staying

I'm a fool
I'm a fool

He greets his stranger meekly
A thing that she accepts
She sees him waiting often
With chocolate on the steps
He senses she is lonely
She's glad they finally met
They take each other's hands
Walk into the sunset

Do you like sweet potato?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ffald y Brenin

I'm on holiday in Pembrokeshire with my family and we happen to be staying just a few miles from Ffald y Brenin, a Christian house of prayer and retreat centre.  Our friends who built the Cornwall House of Prayer that we were living next to and helping out at were inspired by a trip to this place in the middle of hills and valleys and sheep fields.  It became known after many people had unexpected and profound experiences of God there, and now thousands of people visit.

This morning some of us went over to take a look. It was lovely to be somewhere so peaceful and still; a place set aside for reflection and listening and blessing.  Especially in the sunshine with lots of space to wander and sit outdoors...

This story is not all butterflies and roses
Then again,
Perhaps it is
Delicate wings disguise the struggle they endured
To come into being
The pressure and darkness of the cocoon

Silken petals hide
Thorny stems
Waiting to draw blood
From anyone that gets too close

Beauty and pain
Sunshine and rain
We'll never be the same again

Sorrow and love
flow mingled down
When will my people turn back
Tears the only water
But after a time
We walk from death to life
From lack to plenty
From promises to reality