Snapshot Saturday: from Pyrenees to Pennines via books, a cup of coffee,a skein of geese …. and an elephant

The WordPress photo challenge this week is ‘Beloved’.

I don’t think the humans in my life whom I love would be happy for me to plaster their images all over the blogosphere.  I have no pets, beloved or otherwise.  So I’ll have to look a little further.

Here’s a little miscellany of images, beloved images:

  • The Yorkshire Dales, whose rolling hills, bisected by ancient drystone  walls I missed so much during our years in France.
  • The Pyrenees, from their richly flowered springtime meadows through to winter, when their rocky slopes are covered in deep snow, and which I now miss every single day.  I’ll miss the shared picnics on our walks together, when our French friends pooled resources, and we ate everybody’s offerings of home-cured sausage, local cheeses, bread, home-baked cakes together with wine and somebody’s grandfather’s very special eau de vie.
  • Springtime daffodils.  Every year I go into deep mourning when they wither, die and finally become untidy heaps of dying leaves.  I’m happier now as they thrust their sheathed stems through the hard soil, promising to flower soon- but not quite yet.
  • There are books: I need a pile beside my bed to get me through the night.
  • A single, perfect cup of coffee from Bean and Bud in Harrogate.
  • Skeins of geese flying overhead mark the seasons here, and I love their haunting, raucous cries.
  • And so on….

I’ll end though with this.  I wasn’t beloved of this elephant in Kumbakonam,  Tamil Nadu, who was only doing his job when I visited him ten years ago on my Indian Adventure.  But I felt beloved and very special when he raised his trunk and brought it down upon my shoulder – his very distinctive way of blessing me.

Elephant in the temple of Adi Kumbeswarar, Kumbakonam, ready to give me his blessing.

Click on any image to see a slideshow of the photos, full-size.

A broken resolution

I only made one New Year’s Resolution this year, which is one more than I usually make.  This year, I would not buy any more second-hand books from charity shops – my main sources for all kinds of serendipitous purchases – till I’ve read almost every unread book on our own shelves.

Well, that worked.   It’s January 13th and I’ve just spend £3.75 on this little lot, culled from the charity shops of Ramsbottom, just up the road from where Ellie lives.


Ramsbotton is a post-industrial once-upon-a-mill town, a nice little market town with a whiff of artsiness about it. It has a cute little heritage railway: you can catch an East Lancashire steam train on high days and holidays.  There are lots of independent shops, great coffee shops and restaurants. As a side-line, it does a fine line in charity shops with book departments that are a cut above the average, and I spent a happy hour or two browsing this afternoon before the boys came home from school.

Ramsbottom seen from snowy fields.

I’m in Bolton this week because on Monday Ellie had her second operation, her mastectomy.  It went well, thanks, and she’s recovering at home.  Her dad and I  took turns to manage-a-patient and manage-a-dog and manage-the-twins .  The worst job is definitely getting the boys up in the morning.  They’re just like their mum used to be when she was 11.

Hundreds of books, thousands of books…..

Facing the task of packing and moving our library, I was reminded of that wonderful book I used to read with my children, Wanda Gag’s ‘Millions of cats’.


‘Hundreds of cats books, thousands of cats books and millions and billions and trillions of cats books’.

Oddly, I no longer have the book, though I hope one of the offspring has.  ‘Oddly’, because I seem to have most of the others that have accompanied me through life.  Both of us is incapable of downsizing when it comes to books.  Till now.

The study, before downsizing started.
The study, before downsizing started.

When we realised that much of what we own has remained unopened since the day it arrived in France and probably for some years before that, we decided something had to change.  Jettisoning them was unthinkable.  And where in France could we re-home so many books in English?

By chance, I was browsing on the web one day, and realised that many of these old faithfuls have a value.  They could be sold.  So that’s what we’ve decided to do.  But it’s really not about the money.  It’s about knowing that these books will end up with someone who has chosen them and wants them, rather than in some charity shop where, as we know from experience, some would simply moulder or even be thrown before reaching the shelves, even though many would be snapped up.

So…… we now have three kinds of book.  The central core: books we can’t think of doing without – mainly reference books and other much-used non-fiction, with some of our best-loved fiction.  The second kind, the saleable ones, are now boxed up to send to England.  And the last, and smallest group: the ones we’ve decided to do without, and which have little apparent value.  We’ve opened doors to all-comers who want to browse, and we’ve probably re-homed about half.  There are still some 450 still remaining.  They’re heading to Amnesty International in nearby Castelnaudary, who raise funds by selling to both English and French customers.  We know how excited we get when we get the chance to browse a new collection of English books, so we hope they’ll be a good money-raiser for them.

Come and look at some of our books – rejected and selected.

You can tell how long I’ve had this one: it was priced in pre-decimal days, before 1972, so even many British readers may have difficulty in deducing that this scholarly work of non-fiction cost me….. 57 ½ p.

A history book that's now history.
A history book that’s now history.

This book was given to me as a leaving present from work back in the mid ’70s.  It was a good read then, but even more so now as a history of the area we now live in.

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's classic work based on our corner of France.
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s classic work based on our corner of France.

This book belonged to my grandfather, a man who died long before I was born.  Beautiful marbled end papers such as this often came as standard in the 19th century.

Marbled endpaper.
Marbled endpaper.

And finally, a book which though incomplete, is a real piece of history.  It includes handwritten recipes for making ink, polish, peppermint cordial, stove-blacking.  Here’s how to keep your brass and copper ware in tip-top condition.

Handy housewife tips from another age.
Handy housewife tips from another age.

It includes just one newspaper cutting.  By snooping around on the net and looking for this particular  (and unsuccessful) cure for cholera, I surmise it comes from the 1820s.

Cholera cure: a suggestion.
Cholera cure: a suggestion.

Surely even the most die-hard minimalist will forgive me for keeping this book firmly among the family treasures?

And now the books are packed.  Every single one – apart from a few bedtime stories for the next three weeks.  One room done, seven to go.

All gone.
All gone.


I like BookCrossing.  I love the idea of ‘releasing books into the wild’ for some lucky reader to find, and I love finding books in the same way.  It brings me face to face with choices I wouldn’t normally consider when I’m browsing the shelves of my local bookshop, library or charity shop.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at releasing books.  If I leave one in a café, an anxious waitress will scurry after me waving my latest offering.  Leave them on a park bench, and the heavens open.  And so on.

But I do have 3 outlets.  The first was McQueen’s coffee shop in Knaresborough. For the first and only time in my history of BookCrossing, I heard from someone who’d found and enjoyed a book I’d left.  She was writing to me from France.  Result.

The next place is Le Rendezvous in Léran, a village near our house in Laroque. The bar is not an official BookCrossing site, but owners Marek and Shirley encourage people to browse the shelves of the overflowing bookcase and choose a book or two, leave a book or two.  It’s a great resource of both English and French reading matter.

My third place is new to me. It’s in the adjacent block of flats to ours in Ripon. Calling on a friend there, I discovered a bookcase in the entrance hall to the block. Unofficial BookCrossing again: the great idea of one of my friend’s neighbours.  I met her at his party on Friday and she told me her ideas of encouraging neighbours to share books has become popular, with paperbacks changing on an almost daily basis.

So now I’m deep in a gritty ‘policier’, set in Portsmouth, a town I thought until this weekend that I knew quite well. I’d never heard of Graham Hurley, or of  ‘Angels passing’.   Glad I have now.