- Reading on Kindle. I like it but not for everything, not for collections of poems, where I need to be able to get my fingers in and out of a solid, three-dimensional book. It's better for narratives, it's a little like reading from a scroll (or so I imagine, never having read from a scroll), a small section at a time appearing and disappearing and making way for another, you can roll back and review but you can't hold more than one thing in front of you at once, so it's kind of concentrating but constraining. What it is good for, for me, is reading in French, something I'm rather dilatory about doing. So for example, I've had Flaubert's Un Coeur Simple with an English translation, not a very good one but serviceable and fine for a crib, kept open on the menu in parallel, and then with the built-in French-to-French dictionary, which is much better than resorting to a French-English one, I can fairly zip along, without the need for a cumbersome and discouraging pile of volumes in front of me, and by the end I was hardly flipping back to the English at all except occasionally to confirm things. This system works best for classic out-of-copyright stuff that can be got in both languages free from Gutenberg. Truth is I can't quite bring myself to pay for much on the Kindle as it just doesn't seem like a real thing for my money, if you know what I mean - the exception to this being the wonderful Words on the Street, from Bauble Tree Books ( Dave and Rachel, sitting in a tree... ) which works very well in this form.
- reviving old projects and thinking about new ones.
- eating cock-a-leekie and drinking whisky macs for Burns Night. Our old quasi-Scottish friend who died last year was the pretext for celebrating Burns Night in the past, so it looked like that was that, but then we remembered about it late in the day and decided spontaneously just to do the bits we always liked best, which were the cock-a-leekie and the whisky macs. In the chilly grey wet and western fringe parts of the world it seems a good idea to have a festival in late January, especially one involving boiled fowl, leeks, ginger and malt, if not sheep's stomachs.
- holding warrior poses.
- emptying two kitchen drawers and filling them up again, more tidily and with less crowding. They won't stay like that.
- listening to The Divine Comedy. Enjoying Purgatory rather more than I expected.
- making marmalade from clementines, bitter oranges having once again eluded me. A patriarchal family of glossy jars, father (a full litre), mother (.75l), firstborn (.5l), triplets and a baby now occupy the shelves out back. It looks a bit runny, mind...
- worrying about our young neighbours' beautiful border collie, who I found some ten days ago by their gate, his hind leg broken by a hit-and-run driver (an event I was an ear- but not eye-witness to, but I don't want to think about that more than I must). They came home shortly afterwards after we'd already arranged to take dog to the nearest available vet, and mother, father and very small boy all piled into the car with injured dog for the trip to the surgery. We rather feared that when they learned how much it was going to cost to fix it would be curtains for the poor dog, but they seemingly didn't hesitate to have him taken further afield to a surgical vet and operated on. And it will cost a lot, especially for a young family with a small child and new mortgage. I was really touched and impressed by the concern and compassion the little boy, who can't be more than two, showed for the dog, both when he came home and in his absence; his dad said that the morning after when the dog was staying at the vet's the boy went outside and was calling him and asking in some distress where he was. In my observation not all small children are so kindly disposed to their family pets. Dog is now home, wearing an e-collar and confined to the conservatory while the limb heals. By French country standards, they are caring and responsible owners; they have fenced the garden quite carefully so he didn't have to live on a chain, even though they were only renting the house at the time, they've given him comfortable accommodation, and he is clearly part of the family. The trouble is you can't really expect a border collie to stay put on its own in a garden all day unoccupied, and he found a way out. Even that I can't reproach them for; Ludovic found him as a stray, presumably dumped, where he was working, and begged his girlfriend to let him bring him home, so saving him from impounding and a more uncertain future.
- baking potatoes on the fire.
- sleeping on new Ikea fast pillows, buy one get the other half-price. Hoping to help Tom's shoulder, which maybe it does. It's good, really posturally much better but somehow not all cuddly and kindly and welcoming like the big squashy square French pillows we have grown used to. Probably worth persevering with.
- waking up to just the right amount of snow.
- digging over the veg beds, planting early broad beans, finding the compost heap alive with very busy tiger worms, which had done a fine job of turning everything within an inch or two of the top into excellent rich brown compost. I cannot adequately express my joy at this.
- Reading Tranströmer (translated Robin Fulton); delighting in
The black coffee they serve out of doors
among tables and chairs gaudy as insects.
filled with the same strength as Yes and No.
It's carried out of the gloomy kitchen
and looks into the sun without blinking.
In the daylight a dot of beneficent black
that quickly flows into a pale customer.
It's like the drops of black profoundness
sometimes gathered up by the soul,
giving a salutary push: Go!
Inspiration to open your eyes.
( I was that pale customer...)
- whistling Dixie. Literally. Driving myself mad. A persistent tune on the brain like an old bit of chewing gum you can't spit out.
- looking at the atlas and dreaming of Scandinavia.
- counting birds for Bretagne Vivante, (thanks to Setu for putting me onto it), though I fear not very accurately. I couldn't resist including the sparrowhawk I looked out of the window to see mantling menacingly on the laurel hedge outside on Sunday. Feeding the birds, feeding on the birds... I don't think it caught any of our precious blue tits.
- deciding not to enter into on-line discussions.
- Watching Tom make chicken stock:
On which note I shall close this at last. Probably I should have posted one of these a day rather than in such a welter, but it's ever feast or famine hereabouts.