Posts Tagged ‘Niccolo Rising’

Images of Ireland and fictions of Africa

Monday, 25 August 2008

The weather was finally good enough to go for an outing yesterday, and Luna came along. On the way, she helped me work out my filet pattern.
Luna bear with crochet pattern
Luna on tree branch
From the car park of Malahide Castle we walked across the park, and Luna took the opportunity to get a good view from a handy tree.
Malahide Castle
It’s a pretty and interesting place, but pictures aren’t allowed inside.
Malahide Castle
We were though.
Wooden door at Malahide Castle

238. The Return Of Tarzan By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Otherwise, well, I continue to have qualms about it, but I’ve just read the second Tarzan novel, this time direct on Project Gutenberg, as the Librivox version isn’t finished and doesn’t look to be any time soon. It’s just as silly and implausible, with just as many horrendous stereotypes and negative generalisations about (often imaginary) groups racial, national, or whatever (it often is imaginary whatevers, with Burroughs) of their time, as the first in the series, and as the rest of them probably do. The groups aren’t always African, either, but that is where most of the action takes place.

These are light melodramatic little stories, which to the modern ear are generally cringeworthy, and yet the hero continues as a part of the common culture.

239. Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale by Michael Holman

I happened to finish this book today as well, and a very different take on Africa it is. Kuwisha is a made up country in modern Africa, where President Nduka mesmerises the overseas journalists, politicians, aid workers, etc who try to make him give more than lip service to a completely free democracy, end corruption and end human rights violations, while everyone else tries to get on with their lives, and a few try (more or less officially) to improve the lot of those around them. The doers are the ones who succeed in the task here, rather than the talkers, or those who try too hard to bring everyone else their way.

Here everyone is part of the international community, affected publicly and privately by lawyers, editors, activists, bankers and politicians from all over. This is a funny and provacative book, which has left me thinking about the state(s) of modern Africa, and whose role it is to affect change there.

Hm, can we find an African connection for Niccolo Rising chapter 13? Well, the time is going to come when Loppe will say what he thinks of the various bits of Europe he’s been dragged to (and which part of Africa he was dragged from), but Milan isn’t it.

Questions of judgement

Thursday, 21 August 2008

So, having coming up with lots of interesting phrases and comments to work into my tablecloth, how come I started this massive – and thus boring to do – picture that’s taking up a very large portion of it? I haven’t made any appreciable progress on it today at all. I suppose I should go back to the motifs, which are small and interesting.

236. Mother by Kathlen Norris

Today’s new offering from Librivox is their first by Kathleen Norris, a short (seven chapters) well-read fable. According to Wikipedia it’s the first of her many very popular sentimental/romantic novels, and this certainly fulfils the description. The issues here, of the values and aspirations of middle and upper (in American terms) class women, and how many or any children fit into these, are still recognisable today, although the past 95 years have certainly made a difference!

Although the inspirational, eponymous Mother of the main protagonist, Margaret Paget, has quite specifically withdrawn herself from all close relationships beyond her husband and seven children, this is not the only lauded womanly role; Margaret’s slightly older friend and colleague, the widowed Emily Porter, is presented from the first as having fought for her teaching post, both for the enjoyment and for the financial security it brings herself and her two children. Margaret (Mark to her family, Peggy to her New York friends and acquaintances) is given the opportunity to compare and contrast their examples of giving, fecund maternity to the life of leisure and suavity she has always wanted and takes full advantage.

Niccolo Rising chapter 12. Claes’ unexpected skills come through.

Unexpected speakers

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sorry for the delay in this post (and for the shadow on the image — this was the most legible picture), but I wanted to finish the first filet piece of the tablecloth to show you. Appropriate, no? I’m still working on the flower motifs, but those are small and easily transportable, whereas I think I’ll do the flat filet work all in one piece, so I’ll do it at home. That’s what will gain me the size, as well.

I think I’ll do a picture next, as I’d like to separate the different text phrases from each other.

I’m enjoying being away on holiday, even though I’m back in the house I grew up in! My mother and I went to a ‘Day Spa’, on Friday, with a package including massage, manicure, pedicure and facial – the first time I’d done any of those. It was a really fun day (but very expensive) and I shall now have to try finding the time and money to repeat at least part of the experience.

231. The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

I think I might have got this when I was a little older than the intended readership, but I’ve always enjoyed it anyhow. I think Durrell’s autobiographical accounts of his animal expiditions, as well as his family and friends are hilarious, but this isn’t trying to be funny, specifically (although there some very funny parts) but a gentle adventure story for children, where Emma, Ivan & Conrad’s eccentric Great-Uncle Lancelot turns up at their house one day in his balloon to whisk them away on a rescue mission that involves travelling around the world meeting (and talking to) fantastic animals. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Graham Percy, and well worth getting your hands on.

232. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I had remembered that there were ‘spiritual’ elements to this book, but not how much of a rabbit world is created and explained, nor how graphic some of what happens (or is described) is. This is an epic adventure in the classic style.

233. March by Geraldine Brooks

Reading this now made sense, having just recently completed rereading Little Women (with Craftlit). I still amn’t sure how much the LW connection matters to this story; I think it is a plausible account of what could be the background to Alcott’s characters, and yet I amn’t sure it’s the one I will have in the back of my mind for them.

As for the book’s own merits: I think it’s good, and thought-provoking, and satisfying in many ways, although it left me on edge. I think it might not have left me that way had I not been trying to reconcile it to my sense of LW, of course…

Now I’m considering rereading some other books I have about the American Civil War.

Niccolo Rising chapter 10 includes Tobie and Julius discussing Claes, and I still can’t work out (after how many rereads of the whole series?) where they’re both coming from, how honest they’re being, and how much they believe each other.

Making use

Friday, 15 August 2008

No new picture today, I’m afraid, but I have done another motif or two on the tablecloth. I’ve also printed out some filet patterns to play with. In fact they are meant as cross stitch patterns, but will do just as well for filet, as only one colour is needed.

There are several free online generators of text patterns for cross stitch, but I would recommend two in particular. Celtic Cross Stitch allows you to type in a word or phrase (excluding accented letters and punctuation), then gives a Jpeg image which you can save or print directly of that word or phrase in Celtic lettering. Stitchpoint is much more flexible, with four fonts available, as well as accents and punctuation, and the option to build in line breaks, but I could not see how to save the resulting image, only print it directly, and it is rather slower, since the text cannot be typed in by keyboard, but each letter and piece of punctuation has to be clicked on separately.

I’m planning on interspersing my words and phrases (food and guest related) with pretty pictures, for which I’ll use charts meant for filet work, as most of the cross stitch ones I have seen expect a variety of colours to be available. I haven’t really begun looking for those online, although I know there are a lot out there.

I’ve had no excuse for not continuing with Niccolo Rising in the last couple of posts, even through I didn’t bring my copy, since my mother introduced me to the books, and has all of them… So, chapter 9: In which we learn a whole lot more about child-parental relationships.


Friday, 8 August 2008

Still can’t crochet (although I am going through my crochet books to decide what to do with all that orange cotton), and I’m in the middle of a variety of longer books, so none of those are ready for review.

I’m currently listening to Moby Dick, and while the Librivox reader is doing a fantastic job, I end up missing bits of the story, because Melville keeps going off on tangents and I lose where we’re up to. Not that he doesn’t admit this lack of narrative within the text, but I can’t help wishing he’d written two books, one on the art and craft of whaling, whales, and everything to do with them, and one with the story of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. I suppose Ishmael could come along for the ride too. (I really amn’t that keen on the narrator.)

Or maybe, since it seems to me to be what he really wanted to do, a book on whaling, with the straight story as an appendix, and a good contents page at the beginning, and index at the end, so that when one wants to read a discourse on how well artists of different countries represent whaling, one could go to that, rather than arresting the tale once again.

One of the things that is keeping me interested (far more than the story or the tangents) is trying to work out Ishmael. He keeps sounding like the standard 19th century bigot, and then turning out to be fairly open minded. I don’t particularly like him, but he is interesting, if annoying.

Dorothy Dunnett, unlike Melville, does not give you information that is unnecessary for the story. In fact, a lot of the time a whole lot more would be useful, even than what you end up working out by the end of the book, series, or canon. Which is part of why I’m enjoying this slow reread of Niccolo Rising. Chapter 8 is only the first time we’re going to wonder exactly what Tobie overheard in the sickroom.

And while we’re discussing books I’m part-way through, I really loved Tom’s attempts to row alone in chapter two of Tom Brown at Oxford. I am competent, if completely lacking in style, at sculling alone myself, and could readily imagine his exploits, which had me in fits of laughter.

There are a couple more books in progress, but I think they’ll be fine being discussed in their entirety.

As for the cotton, I’m considering making a tablecloth out of a whole variety of motifs, pieced together. I’m sure I’d get bored doing enough of the same ones for a whole cloth, but a variety could work.

More boys’ adventures

Monday, 4 August 2008

227. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Newly orphaned David Balfour leaves his quiet Lowland village in Scotland to seek his uncle and his fortune, and discovers that honour, politics and family ties don’t always mean what he thought they would. I rather wish I’d done what Stevenson recommends early in the tale, and had a decent map of Scotland beside me, to trace David and Alan’s travels, but I didn’t, and wasn’t reading a text that might have had one in its endpapers.

Instead, I listened to another newly catalogued Librivox edition, read by one person, who does very well at distinguishing the voices, and gives a pretty disclaimer at the very beginning as to being American and thus not having perfection in his various Scots accents.

In any case, I was greatly intrigued by the descriptions of the Highlanders still hiding leaders, arms and papers after the ’45, and the exposure of a Whiggish Lowland boy thrown upon them after being betrayed further South.

I especially like how real David is. He gets exhausted, and snappish, and ungrateful, as well as being able to push himself further than he thought he could. He gets ill from hardship and speaks his mind even when he knows it’s ridiculous to do so, and that he could obtain the same result at less cost by keeping quiet. He can compromise, and allow time to run its course. Alan is a rather larger than life character, but he has his faults and his justifications just the same. I was a little surprised at just where the tale ended, but if abrupt it was clear, so that isn’t a major complaint.

And, of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking of the overlapping time and place with some of the Gabaldon books, as well as histories of the period I have read and am reading.

228. The Swoop! by P. G. Wodehouse

Again a new Librivox tale, and a Wodehouse story I didn’t know about. It made me smirk and giggle a good few times, if not quite guffaw, but that might be to do with the fact that it’s decidedly unPC and generally of its time (1909), rather than for all time. Apparently invasion stories decrying the vulnerability of Britain (here England) and the unreadiness of her armed forces for war were all the rage, and Wodehouse seems to enjoy his satire by giving the Boy Scouts as the last useful defence force. (Although the general indifference and desire to keep normal life going of the great British public has its share in sending the multiple invaders running for home.)

Niccolo Rising chapter 7: do I have to do more to show you why I love Dunnett’s voice and characters than to quote the beginning of the chapter?

Marian de Charetty … placed [Claes] under house arrest, and did the same for her breezy son Felix. She did not think, unfortunately, of restraining her mercenary captain Astorre, whom she considered an adult.

Family Values

Sunday, 3 August 2008

No crocheting this week, as it’s the Nine Days, so the books have it, I’m afraid! As I suspected, all I now want to do is crochet, but I can’t, so there it is.

224. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

There are two quite distinct stories here, but they do tie together. The first part shifts around in time, gradually charting the unchanging life of Uma and her parents in their small town in India, with its few highs and lows, while the second (shorter) part tells of one specific summer in the life of Arun, her younger brother, as he stays with an American family between his first and second years at university.

Every time it has seemed Uma might get away, live her own life, whether as wife, worker, or anything else, she ends up being brought home, to the pleasure of no-one, and is now stuck looking after her parents for the coming decades. Arun is expected to have that life, but just wants to get away from everyone. Even though his father, like his host, is horrified at his vegetarianism, his own family does not have the disfunctional relationship with food (and each other) that they do, but even though he has a real experience with the Pattons, while Uma drifts through another summer of frustration and disappointment, I amn’t convinced either sibling is all that changed.

225. Planting & Building: Raising a Jewish Child by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

So, no, I don’t have children, and I don’t have any reason to expect them soon (ie a spouse), and this isn’t even the first time I’ve read this book. The fact is, my Rabbi told me to read it (and reread it), as a framework for planning how I want to bring up my children one day, as it’s an important factor in choosing a husband. I think he’s right. Rabbi Keleman has translated the book beautifully clearly, as one would expect.

226. Coming Home: 20 Glimpses from the Road of Return in Modern America compiled by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz

The Bostoner Rebbe has been supporting students at the universities in Boston for decades, as well as people of all ages who have come his way, and here he has compiled the stories of twenty of them who became Orthodox Jews. I enjoyed reading these thoughtful appraisals and retellings of the varied journeys of some very interesting people.

Niccolo Rising chapter 6 shows us the Charetty family reunion, as the Widow returns, sweeping her daughters Tilde and Catherine along with her, and her unruly males back to work.

Boys’ ideas of right and wrong

Thursday, 31 July 2008

223. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes

I actually began reading this a few weeks ago, but didn’t get into it, and then found this very good reading of it among Librivox’ newly catalogued works. I’m guessing the lone reader may have had a bit of a public school education himself – he certainly seemed very comfortable reading the quotations in Greek and Latin.

Once the story gets going it’s a very good one, describing Tom Brown’s time at Rugby and his growth there, in company with his friends Arthur and East, and under the supervision of The Doctor. I read Hughes’ preface to the 6th edition as describing it mostly as a polemic against bullying, and while that is an important issue I think there is rather more going on. Hughes is very open about recommending a whole moral code to his intended readership of (public) school boys of his time, from a particular Victorian view of Englishness, boyhood and Christianity. I wouldn’t espouse it all myself, by any means, but I can see that he ties it together, and justifies whatever he sees as being at all non-mainstream. He is very strongly against bullying, in all its forms, and sees it as a trait to be stopped early (often through corporal punishment) or never.

The volume I have also includes Tom Brown at Oxford, which I’m looking forward to reading, now that I’ve got interested in the characters and how they are progressing. Will Tom’s moral compass hold true as he is exposed to new ideas? Indeed, how much will he be?

Over in Niccolo Rising, chapter 5, Claes, Felix and their friends are also showing their ability to cause large amounts of mischief without malice (we hope).


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

My platelets donation went perfectly today! We tried the right arm, since the left has been problematic for about a year, and even though the vein is not ideal, it’s evidently better than the scarred left one, with a bit of care.

Luna is getting very excited about exploring Europe, but her Travelling Teddy group isn’t ready to start yet [go sign up!] so she came out with me for the day. She was a bit scared for me, as Moon Bears get horribly mistreated in the extraction of their bodily fluids (bile) for human benefit, but in contrast, human blood/component donors have a choice, have their own health as paramount in the process, are not caged or shackled and are very well treated, rather than horribly abused.
Luna bear outside the Blood Donor Centre
Anyway, Luna got a sticker for coming along, and if any of the visiting teddies are here when I go next, in a month, they can come and get one too. (Only those would say ‘Auntie’, not ‘Mum’.) They will not be asked to donate themselves! Luna also finally got to model her rucksack for completed display.

From the Blood Donor Centre we went to the shopping centre, to see was anything left in the yarn sale at John Lewis and there was…

We got a book of crochet patterns for small people, and some yarn. Only a representative sample of the yarn is in the photo (in the interests of me not getting told off for buying 22 balls of a colour – the orangey one – that doesn’t even look good on me) but I do have tentative plans for it, and I love the yarn. (I’ve used other colours of it.)

Also in the picture is the American crochet magazine WHSmith seem to have begun stocking, as I obviously need to encourage this trend, and the lap blanket I finally finished! I got it to the last 6 inches of the edging by the time we had to leave where we have our knit/crochet group, but I did those on the walk home. Tomorrow should be a great time to visit the intended recipient, and even though it won’t be so much use in the current summer weather, I think she’ll like to get it at last. She’s probably forgotten I was even making it for her after all this time!

And I threw my current copy of Niccolo Rising in as well. Chapter 4 hasn’t got me any closer to working out which grudges are personal yet, and which have history as well as current provocation behind them.

Lacking Pity

Monday, 28 July 2008

222. Miracle Ride by Tzipi Caton

I’ve read this cover to cover in a few short hours this evening, and feel like I’ve learnt something from it, although I hope I already knew not to be quite so pushy and/or judgemental as some of the people ‘Caton’ (the book is written under a pseudonym, with some names/details changed for privacy) is confronted by. (It’s a good thing I already hated both the word and the concept of ‘nebach‘. Completely unhelpful, in my opinion.)

This book is a rewritten version, including some later perspective, of her journal of the year from when she first noticed her lymph nodes were enlarged, aged just sixteen, through diagnosis (Hodgkin’s lymphoma), treatment, and trying to get back to normal life afterwards, but then discovering that she just isn’t quite the same person she was beforehand, and can’t do things in the same way, following the same track as her classmates. While their troubles and stresses for the most part still are the latest test by an unsympathetic teacher, she cannot fully relate while dealing with debilitating treatments, friends (of friends) dying, and the side-effects of powerful drugs. It’s a powerful tale, that has some strong lessons for the people around those going through life-testing situations, the Orthodox Jewish community in particular, and for those dealing with teenage girls in general. Baruch Hashem I amn’t qualified to judge its value for those actually going through such situations, but I don’t doubt it would have a high one.

Otherwise, it’s still hot (this weather was supposed to break days ago) and I’m still hardly crocheting. The Braille is progressing, however, and as I type and read words I keep semi-consciously working out which contractions they would include!

Niccolo Rising chapter three: Poor (unmarried) Katelina is going to regret repeating something she should never have been told…