‘Congratulations, you have reached your reading goal’

I have a new iPad, necessary because the old one had become so slow and wouldn’t support many of the apps I wanted. I’d hardly had it two days when it informed me that it would install new software so I left it overnight to cook. Since then, strange things have happened to iBooks. This is where I read the e-books I get sent by Dean Street Press.

When I first went back to the book I’d been reading, the message above appeared at the top of the page. A little later, I was congratulated on reading ‘two days running’. This morning, I’d read just a few pages when I was congratulated again on achieving my goals.

I do not have reading goals! I read not just two days in a row but every day. I do not need some bossy little machine commenting on my reading habits. What will it say when I don’t read on the iPad for a week or two: ‘Tsk, you’re not keeping up’? I’m wondering if there’s some way to disable this unwanted function but I’m not prepared to waste time on finding out.

Wildlife Mystery

A few days ago, I was picking up wood blown down by Storm Brendan onto what passes for the front lawn. I was revolted to find that a fox had made several large and disgusting dumps in various places. The poor thing must have eaten something which disagreed with it. I carefully avoided these messes and carried on clearing up.

Yesterday, arriving back home in the car, I noticed something odd about the grass. It appeared to be covered in brown cones, some quite large. On closer investigation, I found that each of these cones of soil was covering one of the fox messes. The soil had that fine, sieved look about it that you get when ants have been busy. My first thought was molehills but I’ve never been troubled by moles before and why would they throw up soil just in those places?

So, here is my mystery. What creature would feel obliged to ‘tidy’ the garden for me and why was there no scratching or digging around these volcano-like heaps to suggest where the soil had come from? I’ve been gardening for years and have never seen anything like this. All suggestions welcome. Moles do seem the most likely culprits.

Kind Hearts and Coronets, Roy Horniman

Dean Street Press will bring out a new batch of reissued crime mysteries in March. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in to Kind Hearts and Coronets because I wanted to see how it compared with the celebrated film. I had no idea that the original book was published in 1907 as Israel Ranch, the Autobiography of a Criminal. It’s hardly a mystery, as Ranch states from the start his intention of killing off everyone who stands between himself and the title of Earl Gascoyne. As he is writing this memoir from the condemned cell, it seems obvious that he is going to be caught. The book and the film have quite different endings, though.

Israel Ranch is half Jewish and makes much of this throughout the book, often referring to ‘our race’ and the ways of ‘the Oriental’. His callousness is extraordinary, even when he expresses regret at ‘having’ to kill someone he rather likes. He also loathes blood sports and is ‘particularly fond of children’. His undoing is his belief in his own cleverness. The love affairs with Sibella, his childhood sweetheart and with his eventual wife Edith Gascoyne, seem real enough, so he is human, although a love rat. Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson were perfectly cast as these characters in the film.

I was struck by how similar in tone the book and the film are; reading, I could hear Dennis Price in my head. The big difference is that the film is presented as a comedy and the victims as people not much to be cared about, whereas the book makes Ranch’s wickedness quite clear. Yet he is both villain and hero. I enjoyed reading it very much.


Signs of hope

I went food shopping this morning and got soaked in a sudden cloudburst. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a drop of rain since I got home. The weather may be grim but there are signs of life in the garden,

Pot of daffodils. That’s just one; there are several more. Lovely fat buds on the hellebores but they don’t photograph well. I expect there are snowdrops showing but I’m not prepared to squelch across the marsh which was once the lawn in order to find out.

Cheese and Onions: RIP Neil Innes

I’m so sorry to hear that Neil Innes has died. Once you’d heard Canyons Of Your Mind by the Bonzos, you’d never forget it. As for the songs he wrote for The Rutles, they are so like the Beatles songs they parody that I’ve found one segueing into another in my head until I hardly know which is which. What a brilliant man.


Book stats for 2019

This year I read 120 books (probably more), many of them re-reads and some very long.
Dead tree: 51
Kindle: 53. The high proportion is due to getting books from NetGalley, buying 99p Kindle bargains and getting free books with Prime. Full marks to Amazon (I know!) for telling me how to update a ten-year-old Kindle so that I can still use it. Very different from Apple, whose younger iPad mini has just about had it and *can’t* be updated.
iPad: 15
Library: 1, rather shameful. I’ll be the first to complain if the library is closed.
These numbers actually add up! Thirty-six were by men and eighty-three by women. I know that’s one short; I think I missed out the Mitford Letters.

Looking back at a year’s reading I find that, apart from re-reads (Hardy, Dickens and many others), the books I’ve enjoyed most are all non-fiction. They are:
Books of the Year
Backroom Boys: the Secret Return of the British Boffin, Francis Spufford
A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle, Julian Jackson
Anything by Ben Macintyre
Ma’am, Darling, Craig Brown (imaginative biography of Princess Margaret).
Plus, special fiction mention for Mick Herron.

Some fiction I enjoyed
Achachlacher, Emma Menzies
A Girl Called Justice, Elly Griffiths (excellent children’s book).
Joe Country , Mick Herron. The 6th Jackson Lamb mystery
The Art of Dying, Ambrose Parry
The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz

I’m sorry now that I gave up my monthly book bulletins, which would at least have mentioned all the books I read, added some fairly praiseworthy books to the list and explained why I disliked so many of the modern fiction books I read.