Six Degrees of Separation in January

Blogging challenges, Books and reading

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.’

Six Degrees of Separation meme

I included the starting point in this month’s chain, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell in my own, the very first time I participated in Six Degrees, back in August last year.

This time I’ll link it with Nicola Upson’s Stanley and Elsie.  Like O’Farrell, Upson re-imagines lives:  those of the celebrated English painter Stanley Spencer and his family, and their live-in maid Elsie.  Though this is a work of fiction, she sticks more closely to the known facts than O’Farrell. This story of love, obsession, the thought processes of a painter, the English countryside is written in a way that demands to be read, compulsively.

Stanley Spencer: Soldiers washing. http://www.wikiart.org

Another life – this time entirely fictional, entirely believable. Andrew Miller’s The Crossing has Maud at its heart. This unusual woman, very likely with Asperger’s syndrome, nevertheless has an ordinary enough life till tragedy strikes.  Then it takes a different path, when Maud goes to sea … This exquisitely written book, and Maud herself,  may haunt you, as they did me.

The North Sea – a view Maud might have seen.

A big leap now to two fictional lives. Soldiers from Senegal often provided the French front line throughout the First World War. Alfa and Mademba are two of them.  When Alfa watches his lifelong friend Madeba die in agony, unable and unwilling to kill him to end his suffering, his slow descent into madness begins.  David Diop’s At Night All Blood is Black is both hypnotic and heartbreaking.

Not a Senegalese tirailleur, but a British Tommy in WWI, plodding through the outskirts of Ripon.

I can’t face anything else that’s dark at the moment, but I’ll remain with a West African subject, this time a Nigerian.  The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré is written in the voice of fourteen year old Adunni who is married against her will to a much older man. Written in pidgin this lively, involving and often humorous story highlights the difficulties and limitations imposed on many women in Nigeria, particularly those of limited means: forced marriage, domestic slavery. This story, however, has a positive and happy ending.

Possibly acting the part of Big Madam, Adunni’s ’employer’? (Pexels)

Which leads me to another book where the prospect of a forced marriage changes the main protagonist’s life: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak. This is the life of Tequila Leila, sex-worker, and her five very special friends, recalled in flashback just as Leila dies, and told in a vibrant, moving and engaging way.  The second half puts her friends centre stage as they attempt a decent burial for their friend, and for me was less satisfactory.  Read it and decide for yourself.

The streets of Istanbul ( Unsplash-Randy Tarampi)

Let’s end with another woman’s life, an autobiography this time: Tara Westover’s Educated. I approached this book with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. But once started, I couldn’t put it down. Tara Westover comes from a large dysfunctional Mormon family. Home educated, her upbringing was tough, Her journey from a rough country childhood to the world of academia  is well-told, as well as giving me some insight into the Mormons. A thought-provoking read.

House in a rural Mormon community ( Jaron Nix, Unsplash)

With the pandemic still raging, I’m in need of uplifting reads: and with the exception of the David Diop, my choices provide positivity in varying degrees.  I haven’t read next month’s starting-point-book, Ann Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road.  It’s very short: that’s the upside when my TBR list is so very long.

Always up for reading, and recommending good reads to others, this post is also my offering for Square Up today. But please visit the Six Degrees link to see what other readers have chosen.

Six Degrees of Separation

Fire Up your Imagination with Ice?

Blogging challenges

A frosty walk on New Year’s Eve with my Virtual Dog had me taking snapshots of the icy puddles I came across. This was the last one. Here be monsters, ghosts, puppets, all kinds of flights of fancy. What can your imagination come up with as you peer at this ghastly frozen face?

And as it was my last shot of the month, I’ll pop it in for Brian at Bushboy’s World Last on the Card event. I’ve had to make it square for this month’s Square Up challenge, but apart from that, this icy image is just as it appeared, winking up at me from a frigid, frosted muddy path.

And there’s always Six Word Saturday, too …

Get Up and Go in the New Year!

Blogging challenges, Walking

I was up-beat, focused during Lockdown last year. Every day I went out walking – three, four, five, six, seven mile walks: day after day without fail. Now? Not so much. Wind. Rain. Damp. Mud, above all, mud.

Then I had an idea. Our lives have become virtual. Virtual hugs with family and friends, virtual committee meetings, virtual book groups. Though I have no desire to have a real one, I would get myself a Virtual Dog, who would need actual walks every day, come rain, come shine.

My friend Barbara won’t know this till she reads about it here, but I’ve chosen her dog, Dilys. Dilys is always up for a long walk, an explore, a refreshing swim. She’s the best trained dog I know, and is always, like Barbara, an uplifting companion.

Dilys paddles upstream in the River Ure.

And if Dilys is unavailable, I’ll borrow the dog-next-door, Poppy.

Poppy being upstaged by a newly-resident snowman.

Square Up

When Life with Covid-19 was Still a Novelty

Blogging challenges, North Yorkshire

The last day of 2020. We began our year with Emily and Miquel, in Spain. Then – Covid-19 happened, and has dominated everyone’s lives ever since. Optimism and general feel-good is in short supply after all this time, so I choose instead to remember those three months of Lockdown in the spring and early summer. This was a desperate period of isolation, anxiety and money worries for many, so I feel almost ashamed to admit that for me, it was a time when I did little but get out into the fine spring weather and walk, walk, walk, discovering in a way I never had before, the delights of our own home patch.

I was also beginning to get stuck into Jude’s 2020 Photo Challenge, and always took my camera with me to reflect on her latest demands. This review of a year of challenges is only partial: it leaves out all of the later tasks which as the year wore on, relied for me increasingly on archive material. But I’ve discovered a lot about getting the best from a shot – the benefits for instance, of a low viewpoint, or of framing the scene. I’ve had reinforced what I already knew: that fiddling around with dials and apertures ain’t for me, It’s my loss, but I’ll live with it. I’ve discovered too that black and white photos are anything but snaps with the colour removed.

And Su, I’m including this post in your The Changing Seasons theme, even though there are four seasons in every year, not just one. On this occasion, I wanted to remember the best of the year that’s on its way out.

Just click on any image if you want to see it full size. Thank you, Jude, for a mind-stretching challenge during a year when my brain usually seems to be filled with little more than bran. And Su, yours is a challenge I’ll join again too. Next time, I might even stick to the rules.

Around the World in Ten Photos (10)

Blogging challenges

As prophesied, most of you knew we were in Germany yesterday and many of you knew it was Bamberg too. I’d forgotten that this too is a UNESCO World Heritage site – maybe I should have built my whole tour on this? Today will be a lot easier. Just look at the name of my blog. I thought we’d go all Christmassy.

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. Lots of us have participated. Thank you, those of you who accepted my own invitation to be part of the fun. It’s not too late, but on the eve of Christmas Eve, I’m guessing nobody else will. Maybe after the holiday? Just link back to this post of you’d like to.

We didn’t go worldwide at all. I have no photos from our time in Canada and America, and I don’t know Australasia and Africa. But I enjoyed my virtual journey and hope you did too.

Around the World in Ten Photos (9)

Blogging challenges

I spotted yesterday’s rather eye-catching windows as we were walking back to the car park just beyond the old town area of Strasbourg. It seemed an appropriate place to visit as Britain embarks on its foolhardy plan to Take Back Control outside Europe. Oh to be in England, now that Johnson’s here …

I’ve given you some tough images to identify. Here, surely you can get the country right? And this town is a tourist destination, so maybe that too.

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. It’s too near Christmas to name someone specific. I’m just saying to all of you – if you’d like to join in, please do. It’s quite good fun, and all I ask you to do is link back to this post so I know that you’ve posted a photo.

Around the World in Ten Photos (8)

Blogging challenges

Seoul in South Korea was our destination yesterday. We were here during Chuseok, a celebration that was once harvest thanksgiving, and is now a family celebration rather like Thanksgiving in America. Hence the young woman in hanbok: traditional dress. We were at one of the five major palaces in Seoul: Gyeongbokgung – a royal palace with – as is so often the case in Korea, a tranquil water garden.

Today, you won’t have a clue. Even guessing the continent would be a triumph. But it’s Monday Window time, and I love this shot. So there you go.

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. It’s too near Christmas to name someone specific. I’m just saying to all of you – if you’d like to join in, please do. It’s quite good fun, and all I ask you to do is link back to this post so I know that you’ve posted a photo.

Around the World in Ten Photos (7)

Blogging challenges

Our destination yesterday was Mamallapuram, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. An ancient seaport, it’s a wonderful place to wander round exploring its temples, its carvings – all those elephants! – near the long sandy beach lined with fishing boats, and a small friendly town.

And today we’ll remain outside Europe. But where? Your best clue in narrowing it down may be in the featured photo. The woman in pink in the foreground is wearing the traditional dress of that country.

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. It’s getting awfully near Christmas, so this is the last time I’m going to ask someone specific to join in: and I’m asking you, Susan Rushton. No pressure at all, but if you do decide to join in, I don’t think it’ll count against you if you don’t post during the Christmas season.

Around the World in Ten Photos (6)

Blogging challenges

I thought yesterday’s post was the easier for regular followers of my blog, and some of you agreed. It showed the formal gardens of Studley Royal, and the deer park beyond, and the photos came from this post of two years ago, when I celebrated having a new camera by walking the grounds of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal one misty December morning.

Today I’m taking you to another UNESCO World Heritage site. But where?

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. Today I’m asking Nes Felicio Photography – you’re very well travelled and share wonderful photos on your blog. No pressure if it’s not for you, especially as it’s holiday season. Link back to this post if you decide to have a go.

Around the World in Ten Photos (5)

Blogging challenges

Really rather a lot of you realised we’d taken a trip to the Netherlands yesterday. It’s unsurprising that nobody recognised Dordrecht, a city we found ourselves in purely by happenstance a couple of years ago, and which we planned to revisit in a leisurely fashion this year. Plans, 2020 style …. I’m confident though that regular readers will know exactly where we are today. These photos come from a post exactly two years ago today, so I’ll enter them into Fandango’s Flashback Friday. I shan’t link back to my original post until tomorrow. It would reveal the answer to that ‘Wherever …?’ question. And that would never do.

Andrew of Have Bag, Will Travel invited me to join him and other bloggers to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then each day, nominate someone new to join in on the same terms. Today I’m asking I J Khanewala of Don’t hold your breath – you’re pretty well travelled, both in India and beyond. No pressure if it’s not for you, but you do take most interesting photos. Link back to this post if you decide to have a go.