Cricket and tennis

Let’s hope we get a full day’s cricket today. I was really annoyed on Thursday that it rained at the Aegeas Bowl thirty miles away but not here. Yesterday, we were living in gloom here and it rained (far too gently) all afternoon, yet not at Southampton. Cricket is so strange without a crowd watching.

Has anyone else been watching Old Wimbledon? I’ve seen some of the evening programmes and found them quite fun. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia that makes me think tennis was more entertaining (especially the women’s game) when they played with wooden rackets and skill was more important than power.

Lockdown outing

First thing this morning i.e. eight o’clock, I spent half an hour feeding all my pots. Then, because I think I’m still sixty, I decided to take the car out. I went down to the petrol station, which is also a Co-op. There were notices up asking customers to use the disposable gloves provided, or paper when using the pumps. Not a single person used gloves except me, and I’d taken my own disposable ones with me. I paid my bill and got a couple of things I needed; no one in the shop was wearing a mask. Then I drove home a longer way round than I needed to, for the sake of my battery. This was a route I would normally take at least once a week but it was so long since I’d done it that I drove even more carefully than usual. I saw a group of people waiting for a bus, all wearing masks. On the village green (not ours, we don’t have one), there was bunting and one of those black silhouetted soldiers, probably put up for VE day. When I got back, I wiped down the door handle, steering wheel, gear stick and parking handle, to use a technical term. Was this excessive caution?

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Happy birthday, Ringo

Incredibly, Ringo Starr is eighty today. When I was busy this morning, I had Classic on and Xander (big Beatles fan), paid tribute. He said that the unkind saying attributed to John Lennon that ‘Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world. He wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.’ in fact originated in a Jasper Carrott sketch. Sometimes, I wonder how I’ve managed to live so long without knowing these things.

Some June reading

Again, I’m not giving a complete list of what I read last month. I’ve already written about A House in the Country, by Ruth Adam. My bedtime reading still consists of re-reading Miss Read. What can you say about the books except that each is exactly like the last, even repeating the same anecdotes? The vicar must be the longest-lived incumbent ever and Joseph Coggs the boy who spent longest in a village school. I’m currently on Farewell to Fairacre. I don’t like this one much because I hate to read about Miss Read having strokes. I can take any amount of horrors in books which are very different from these, but I suppose, as with some children’s books, where I don’t want the children to grow up, I want Fairacre to be the same forever.

I read three Jeeves and Wooster books, an omnibus 99p bargain for the Kindle.
I laughed out loud and occasionally re-read a paragraph just to enjoy Wodehouse’s inimitable, felicitous turns of phrase.

June was a Crime Classics review month. I was sent A Time to Die by Hilda Lawrence and this is the review I put on Amazon.
A Time to Die is the latest offering in the Crime Classics Review Club and I read it thanks to Agora books. It’s the second Mark East book and at first I was confused by the setting (a holiday resort) and the large cast of characters. An apparently good and harmless woman is first missing, then found murdered. This leads East on a trail which leads to a lunatic asylum. He plays his cards close but is desperately trying to protect a child he believes to be in danger. She is, and the ending is very tense. Curiously, I’d previously read Lawrence’s Death of a Doll and found I could remember it in some detail but that Mark East had made absolutely no impression; I couldn’t even have told you it was ‘a Mark East mystery’. So, for me, Hilda Lawrence wrote good mysteries starring a private investigator with no personality.

If you like creepy mysteries, I can recommend The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. Libby was an adopted baby and believes herself to be an orphan. When she turns twenty-five, she learns that she has inherited a house (Cheyne Walk, no less!) and goes to look it over, planning to sell and be financially secure. Then she learns the history of the house; how, twenty-five years ago, three bodies were found in the house, assumed suicides, while in another room there was a baby, clean and well cared for. Of course, Libby wants to find out the truth but is someone watching her? Could there be someone actually hiding in the house? Just when you think the mystery is cracked, there’s another twist and you find you’ve got it wrong. The ending is unsettling because there’s still unfinished business and the person involved seems untrustworthy. Brrr.

Another newish book (and, I now see, another Richard and Judy choice) was The Love Child by Rachel Hore. This has rather a hoary plotline. A young woman from a ‘good’ family is forced by her parents to give up an illegitimate child for adoption. We then follow the lives of mother and daughter, wondering if they will ever meet and if they do, what the consequences might be. I like Rachel Hore’s earlier books much more than I do her more recent efforts.

Much of my reading time has been spent on Andrew Roberts’ 1,000-page biography Churchill: Walking with Destiny. Churchill’s life was so long and so action-filled, that he doesn’t become Prime Minister until about a third of the way through the book and Roberts doesn’t hang about; he fairly whisks us through history. I still have a way to go.

Freakish weather

Yesterday evening, I experienced an unusual weather phenomenon. It was about nine o’clock and I noticed that the kitchen seemed flooded with light. Looking out the back, there was an extraordinary sight. Part of the sky was black, the horizon blue and the sun setting from behind the house. It had been a grey day but the garden looked bright as at noon, as though a heavenly spotlight were trained on it. Pink flowers glowed bright red while blue flowers had turned purple. I gazed for ages and felt calm and uplifted, a mood which stayed with me.

The new Furrowed Middlebrow books

In August, Dean Street Press will bring out another batch of Furrowed Middlebrow titles, books written by women and published around the middle of the last century. The new selection is: E.H. Young's Miss Mole, A House in the Country by Ruth Adam, Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert, Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith, and two by Celia Buckmaster: Village Story and Family Ties. The only one of these I’d read before is Miss Mole, which I have in an old Virago edition. The one I most wanted to read, because I already liked the author, was luckily the other book I was sent: A House in the Country by Ruth Adam.
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Vulgar gardening

You won’t see hanging baskets at Longmeadow or other superior gardens; they are distinctly looked down on these days. My opinion is that they go with a thatched cottage and I’ll stick with them. The one above is right outside my kitchen window and gives me a cheerful view. When all the garden centres and nurseries were closed, I ordered a ‘collection of basket plants’ online (from posh Crocus, so yah to snobs). I had no idea what I would get. Once they arrived, as tiny plugs, I grew them on while I waited to get compost. I was able to fill three baskets and two pots with them, so I’m quite pleased. These are the porch ones. I hope they will be overflowing by the end of summer.

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