"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Most Recent Read

Yesterday was extremely busy--we lunched downtown with a friend, ran errands, went to the supermarket. Tomorrow will be much the same--taking Ruth to register for obedience class, followed by a diocesan meeting.

I've rediscovered a favourite old book.

Like many historical fiction readers, Katherine by Anya Seton was an early and treasured experience of the genre. The leader of our youth theatre group suggested it to me and my best friend when we were in our impressionable early teen years. We loved it. That big fat novel offered real-life characters, a wealth of detail about the social and political and dynastic history of later 14th century. The protagonist was Geoffrey Chaucer's sister-in-law....Many years later, when I spent a very pleasant year (yes, an entire year!) in Chaucer studies during college, I was delighted to find Katherine on our syllabus. It was nice knowing that a "romance" book I loved so dearly was respected by my highly respectable and reputable professor.

I'm not exactly sure when I encountered Devil Water.

Devil Water by Anya Seton

I suppose I found it on my grandmother's bookshelves. My copy, pictured above, has her address label pasted on the inside cover. She was interested in English aristocrats and the settlers of the Virginia Colony, having well-documented ancestral connections with both. She and my grandfather lived in Washington D.C. in 1963, when this edition was published. Perhaps she learned of the through one of her "First Family of Virginia"-type organisations. Or a friend recommended it because it was the book to be reading at the time.

In any case, it was old and yellowed when I first noticed it in her very large book collection. At that point, I'd only read Katherine, and Green Darkness. Spotting the Amazing Anya Seton's name on the spine, I asked to borrow the book. It turned out to be a very long loan...in fact, she must have said "Oh, you can keep it," because the paperback has remained in my possession down the decades, accompanying me from house to house.

Many, many years had passed since my last reading. Recently it occurred to me that though the action takes place about a decade after my work-in-progress concludes, it bears a few of similarities with my current project. The characters are real people but not household names (and Jenny Radcliffe, unlike her father and uncle, is positively obscure), they are mostly aristocrats, they lived in interesting times. I felt it was time for another glance.

The novel definitely held up after so long. I experienced it in a different way than ever before--I don't think I've read it since becoming published myself. I admire Seton's skill in depicting her characters, action, and especially setting. The people are generally flawed but are sympathetic without being too whitewashed, and thus believable. I prefer novels that contain many shades of grey, and get annoyed if there's too much black or white. The use of dialect would've bothered me if I hadn't already been so familiar with the book. In many a scene, especially those in Northumbria and on the Virginia plantations--it's laid on mighty thick and sometimes seems contrived. And unnecessary. A present-day editor would excise much of it, I daresay.

I have more quibbles with the Colonial Virginia portion of the story than any other, but nothing too grating. I've seen Westover Planation, and Berkeley, and Williamsburg, and Seton's research is impressive without (most of the time) being intrusive. That's true for the novel in its entirety.

That lurid cover on my 1963 edition is quite a joke, it represents a scene involving the Hell-fire Club which, though pivotal, is only described in narrative, after the fact.

My favourite character in the novel has to be the mysterious Evelyn Byrd, born on the James River and educated in England, where she fell in love. I knew her story from childhood (from my grandmother), even before I ever heard of Anya Seton.

This portrait of her is mentioned in the story, as is that red cardinal perched portentously in the tree on the left side.

Evelyn Byrd

Noodling around the Web, I found this interesting site belonging to somebody actually born at Dilston Hall, an important setting in the early part of the book. Warning--if you haven't read Devil Water, there are story spoilers. But if you know a lot about the Jacobite Rebellions--the Fifteen and the Forty-five--you might already know what happened to the Radcliffe brothers.

I definitely enjoyed reacquainting myself with the old friends--and enemies--between the covers of this book. The downside, of course, is that I'm sorely tempted to drag out my equally well-thumbed copies of Seton's Katherine and The Winthrop Woman. I could justify it as permissable "study" of the fictional historical biography genre...but on the other hand, I've got a book of my own to get into shape. So the continuance of my Seton glom must wait a few weeks, till I'm up at the cottage and in more of an editing than a composition frame of mind.

Everyone seems to know Katherine, and the fans of Green Darkness are legion. Seton's Arthurian series is fairly well known, I should think--or used to be.

Has anyone else out there read Devil Water? Any thoughts to share?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dinner with Rabbit

A rare second posting of the day...but I happened to catch our handsome brown friend at dinnertime.

Surveying the options.

A blackberry leaf starter (and he's welcome to the whole vine, saves me prying it up and throwing it away!)

And for his main course, a bit of heather.

Shiny Wolf Teeth

Only a few minutes after I put up the bunny pictures on Sunday, Ruth let out one of her rusty, panicky "There's a monster in the front yard!" shrieks. Running to the window, I saw that big brown bunny in front of the house, nibbling grass. It paid no attention to Ruth, and only loped off when Lola the Wolf turned up to add to the noise.

Yesterday morning I took Lola to the vet--such a nice drive up hill and down dale, past many pastures, each populated by different creatures: appaloosas, big black bullocks, a herd of Highland cows. The fog lay low in the folds of the hills, and the recent rains made the river look fuller than usual at this time of year.

I spent most of the day on our porch, nose in a book--a much-loved Anya Seton novel I hadn't read in a very long time, and may blog about one of these days. Couldn't concentrate on my own writing. The birdsong was awesome. A pileated woodpecker (the same one who flew over the deck when we were sitting there Sat. a.m.) was in the tall tree, making that bizarre call of his. Sounds like a jungle animal! The goldfinches are constantly warbling and chirping as they dart to the thistle feeder. Both the male and female cardinal were busy among the rugosas, just below where I sat.

There was good news from the vet. Lola's bloodwork looked good, and no problems with her dental cleaning procedure. By 3:00 she had come out of the anaestheia and was able to come home. I sent the Chap to collect her, I was headed out to see my own vet--I mean, doctor--for a quick exam and to get some prescriptions.

I returned home to find the Chap and Ruth in the upstairs sitting room, gazing at a very wobbly and glassy-eyed old husky. Lola's hind legs were still extremely unreliable, not a good thing in a house with as many staircases as this. She remained extremely groggy all evening, and napped upstairs or on the landing while we watched tv. Ruth was a good little night nurse, occasionally trotting upstairs to check on her chum.

Just before bedtime I went outside with Lola, to see if she could make it down the steep steps (she did, slowly). We heard an owl off in the forest somewhere. Lola wasn't in the mood to engage in their usual owl-wolf conversation. (Usually they "talk" to each other.)

This morning--another grey and drizzly one--the Chap heard that owl again when he walked down the drive for the newspaper.

Lola's doing better, still a bit subdued. After breakfast, Ruth and I had to check out her clean and shiny choppers.

checking out Lola's clean teeth

Right now beef tips are simmering in my slow cooker, which means the house smells delicious and will all day long. I'm sure slow cookers were really invented for people who work outside the home, and can leave for the day. It's torture sniffing that yummy food, knowing it's hours before dinnertime! But the machine is a boon to the writer as well...just bung the ingredients into it in the morning, and walk away. No danger of the food burning simply because I'm wrestling with a paragraph and oblivious to clock or kitchen timer.

Season finale of Rescue Me is tonight, on FX. The past months have provided the usual emotional roller coaster ride...I anticipate a wrenching cliffhanger of an ending.

The sun is expected tomorrow. An outing is planned.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blooms & Bunny

The long-threatened sidebar update has occurred. New additions include a few more favourite blogs, sort of mixed in with others. One criterion is that they are updated fairly regularly, although I've been known to overlook it. I added a few favourite media links.

Also, I've posted a batch of recommended titles about dogs, from my personal collection. Just in case any dog lovers are looking for some interesting or helpful reading material.

Yesterday I spent five whole hours in my second-largest garden, weeding, pruning, transplating, and re-positioning a rustic arbor for my perennial sweetpeas. Managed to do a bit of work on the long border. (Which needs a bit more work but isn't a high priority right now.) Among the plants moved: one rose, Grootendorst Supreme (a nifty little rugosa with petals that look like they were cut by pinking shears), a columbine that was too crowded and crying out to join all my other columbines in a different garden, and a purple liatris spicata (gayfeather) which went into a planter next to another liatris.

A nice crowd at church this morning. Our New Testament lesson was from Ephesians, Paul's reflection on spousal relationships: "Wives, obey your husbands." There was some grim chuckling in our pew....

Passing through the church garden after the service, I snapped these flower pics with my keychain digicam.

Just ten minutes ago, I stepped out into the rain to take a portrait of our big brown bunny, sitting in his favourite spot beside the fence, under the rugosas.

I used a flash for this one, his eyes aren't really demonic at all. They're soft and sweet and dark brown.

He let me get rather close, then hopped off into the woods--somewhat casually, not in too much of a hurry.

The Chap missed seeing him--again--having made a quick trip to the supermarket for provisions. He's bringing home Singapore Curry Noodles for our supper.

We'd welcome any good thoughts and best wishes for our lovely Lola, who tomorrow undergoes a fairly routine procedure requiring anaesthesia. Given her age, and having so recently lost dear Shadow, I can't help worrying more than I probably need to. It'll seem like a long morning....

Friday, August 25, 2006

Busy Week

No, I've not spent all my time drooling over pricey Maine real estate. I've been a busy girl while the Chap has been away.

Took Ruth to the vet for a quick well check and a weigh-in. And we picked up Lola's medication for her annual August allergy outbreak.

Spent a lot of time in the garden, the weather was so wonderful. I chased monarch butterflies around with my camera.

I've managed to keep the hummingbird feeders topped up. My goodness, they're ravenous. You'd think a big migration is coming up--and you'd be right!

Last weekend I transplanted two roses from a side garden to the back fence, Petite de Hollande and an own-root Charles de Mills. The former budded but didn't bloom this year, and the latter is now mature enough to have bloomed for the first time ever. I hope they'll be happier in their new site.

This week I spent one entire day weeding and moving around more roses. All of these are in new locations: Alberic Barbier, Mme. Sancy de Parabere, Clothilde Soupert, Roseraie de l'Haye, Falstaff, Nearly Wild, and Seagull. Quite the physical workout!

There are still a couple of rose bushes that might get similar treatment. Or not.

In addition, I transferred the large rhododendron that never blooms to my long border, along with a large white potentilla that I rooted myself. I can't believe how much it grew in just a few years, so much that it needs a lot more space.

And I divided and re-positioned one of my beloved pink heathers--I had two large ones, both blooming now. I'm going to like having many more scattered round different beds.

On another day I got out the shears and took care of some pruning--the smaller mock orange, the spirea, part of a forsythia, and the male winterberry outside my office. The female one is fruit-bearing, so I didn't touch her.

My biggest project that day was whacking back my wisteria. I root-pruned it first, then took away all of the long, green tentacles that were covering the octagon deck. Now only the two big stems remain, with just a few leafy bits. Visually it's a big change but a necessary one, to promote bloom next spring.

I've spotted the big brown bunny rabbit at the edge of the woods on two occasions this week, late in the afternoon or at dusk. Neighbours have mentioned seeing him in our driveway early in the day. Obviously he's taken up residence here.

I was thrilled to (finally) receive the reproduction of a Godfrey Kneller portrait of my novel's male protagonist from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I look forward to viewing the original painting on my next NY visit, but this copy will do for now. He's very attractive.

My Chap, also very attractive, returned from Montréal, bearing gifts: numerous bottles of my favourite beer and some toiletries. Plus, a special surprise which I adore--in the "lotions and potions" category. His trip to Québec was excellent, the weather was lovely for driving. Usually I tag along, but we would've had to kennel the girls, and we don't feel Ruth's quite ready for that.

Anyway, I accomplished so much I don't regret staying home.

Now back to the manuscript.

Rose of the Day

Redouté. Another of the incomparable David Austin English Roses. A sport of the ever-reliable Mary Rose, this one looks its best early in the season, then tapers off. But I do love its colour and its fullness and its fragrance.

The rose was named for Pierre-Joseph Redouté, the Belgian/French flower painter so famous for immortalising Empress Josephine's roses. I have many books of his flower prints, which have so often been reproduced. His roses are particularly popular, and on posters, postcards, even gift wrapping paper! If you get a pressie from me wrapped up in pretty Redouté roses, you know you're a very special person.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

House of Dreams: Location, location, location

I'm one of those writers who is intensely inspired by place. This could be a result of family influence--we know who we are, we cherish where we came from. Or because of early literary influences. So much of British and Southern and New England literature is connected to place.

My novels are character-driven, yet most of them are significantly tied to specific areas that I know rather well.

This house has fascinated and inspired me for quite a long time now. It appears in a back-burnered contemporary novel of mine. It's located on the coast of Maine.

It has about 355 feet of ocean frontage, with a private beach.

It's the perfect dwelling for a historian and historical novelist. Built in the 1920's, it was modelled upon a famous medieval house in southern England.

The original house is the setting for a famous time-travel historical novel by a favourite author of mine. The local quarried stone isn't an exact match for the stone found in Kent, but I like its warm reddish hue.

In all, there are 22 rooms (that's twice as many as the Lodge), including a great hall.

Here is the formal sitting room, with lovely wood panelling.

And a dining room with period ambiance. It has a fireplace--one of 13 in the house.

The kitchen, however, is exquisitely modern.

There are 7 bedrooms.

And 5 full baths, plus one 3/4 bath and one 1/2 bath.

The main house has a library, of course. And a secret staircase.

The guest quarters include yet another library, bedroom, billiard room, loft, and pantry.

The patio has a lovely view of the sea, about 1/2 mile away. A perfect spot for writing, or just daydreaming.

There are 52 acres of formal gardens, and several reflecting pools.

Last time this house was for sale, it was priced at $9.95 million. It didn't sell.

It's on the market again. Current price: $10.75 million.

I prefer lakeside living to seaside living--this Pisces is strictly a freshwater fishie. I'm not planning to up sticks. But if I were....

Anyway, it's fun to dream. And dreams don't cost anything.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Poacher

Why would you suspect somebody is poaching our ripe blackberries?

Who would commit such a heinous crime?

What blackberries?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Out & About

Friday: Drove to the city for some shopping, plus a late lunch at our usual Mexican restaurant.

Saturday: Quiet, sunny morning at the Lodge. In the morning, I re-potted at least half a dozen deck or porch plants into larger containers. In the afternoon, we attended the annual meeting of the residents on our road and lake.

Later in the day, I moved two rosebushes and weeded two gardens.

Ruth's newest toy, the "raccoon tail" arrived by mail. It's a big hit, she's hardly put it down since!

Sunday: After being away from our parish for his four-month refresher leave, our rector returned. A most happy and festive occasion!

After the service, parishioners boarded a charter bus and drove to the city to attend a baseball game. We'd had severe thunderstorms all night and it was a very wet morning. But the rain stopped as soon as we arrived and didn't return.

It was Irish Day at the stadium.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians were part of the opening festivities.

Here's the mascot, Fungo. He's meant to represent a wild native beast, the fisher, but more commonly called a fisher cat.

I came home with one of those green horns he's holding. There were lots of giveaways--noisemakers, Irish flags, t-shirts.

Oh, and thanks to an amazing Grand Slam, the home team won the game, 7-2.

Today. It's still cool and damp, perfect for weed pulling and more transplanting of roses and perennials. I'll be working out the next section of the book in my head while I work!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Handicrafts & Hummingbirds

When Ruth and I were up at the cottage on the Big Lake, we found a hollow tube of birch bark during a walk around the point. Yesterday, I transformed it into a rustic wall sconce and flower holder for the screened porch. All I had to do was staple the bottom, forming a pouch, and make a hole in the back so I could hang it. Oh, and pick some flowers to stick in a small, narrow vase. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!

This morning, breakfasting on the deck, I had company--a very handsome fellow!

And more company.

With two perches, you think the hummingbirds could eat together, but they are too territorial. One chased the other away and into the forest.

They spent the rest of the morning fighting for space at the feeder. Fortunately, there's another feeder by the porch, and plenty of bee balm in the gardens.

After eight full days of uninterrupted seclusion here at my Lodge on the little lake, I'm busting out today. Places to go, people to see, things to do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My connections to recent developments at Home and Abroad

A potential perpetrator of the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey is about to be extradited from Thailand. This breaking story is taking me back a decade, and reminding me of curious connections to the sad and long-running saga.

For eleven years we lived less than an hour from Boulder, Colorado, a lovely, thriving, artsy university town beside the mountains. We'd drive up for a concert or to eat in a favourite restaurant or to visit the wonderful shops on Pearl Street or to explore the antiquarian bookshops or for one of my booksigning events. Much as I loved it, I never wanted to live there. The place was a fishbowl.

Less than two years after becoming year-round residents of New England, the story broke. From the moment I heard the news, I didn't believe the parents had committed the murder. It just didn't fit the facts. I hated that the mainstream and tabloid press were crucifying those grieving parents, mostly because of the ineptitude of the Boulder police and DA's office, and the aggressiveness of the primary on the case. And beauty pageants featuring small children tarted up like JonBenet was, look very strange to non-participants. (And to me, I admit.)

I don't think there's a template for behaviour of the parents of a kidnapping and murder victim. But since family members are usually the first targets of an investigation, the best thing to do would be to lawyer up, and get the very best legal advice possible.

The Ramseys are human and thus they are flawed. Under the intense heat and light of public scrutiny, flaws and odd characteristics will be revealed. Unfortunately for them--and the investigation process--their words and actions could be used against them.

When Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey and their young son moved to the Atlanta area, they purchased a magnificent home from distant cousins of mine--one of them a lawyer. My relatives' depictions of the couple confirmed my belief in their innocence. For a long time afterwards, that house (which I think my parents actually visited in the past) became the target of long-lens cameras.

Eventually the Ramseys had to sell it, in order to fund their massive and ever-growing legal fees.

Everyone comments on how sad it is that Patsy Ramsey didn't live to witness this day. I agree.

But who knows what the outcome of Karr's purported confession will be? For things to have got so far, I suppose there must be a considerable cache of evidence, none of which--naturally--the Boulder DA's office is able to discuss publicly. It's almost incomprehensible that the case might be solved so many years later...but I do hope so.


On another topic, that of the ongoing terrorism investigations in the UK, I can't help being annoyed with the constant description of High Wycombe as "a London suburb."

High Wycombe

Not as far as I'm concerned. They're at least 40 miles apart!

My ancestor John Buckner of London, who in July 1661 married Deborah Ferrers in High Wycombe, would have been familiar with every mile separating the two. Theirs was something of a "long distance" courtship. Not sure what they'd think about the modern townscaping. Those giant balls clash a bit with the ancient architecture, and threaten to trip up pedestrians.

Now, of course, when driving round South Buckinghamshire, one quickly runs up against the suburban sprawl of the Metropolis. And it's quite a short ride on Virgin's commuter rail service out of Euston Station.

But even so, High Wycombe maintains its own distinct identity. For me, and I suspect for my friends living there, it's not inevitably associated with London.

Well, that's enough opinion on current events from me today. On with the chapter-in-progress. I had to partially re-write its opening section yesterday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I succeeded in my quest to make the perfect Key Lime pie. The one I made yesterday was sublime, and matched my youthful memories.

With my four leftover egg whites, I made a batch of meringue cookies. They, too, turned out well.

This week's viewing of the Perseid meteor showers couldn't have been better. The night sky was entirely clear, and the only time there was cloud it was very thin and atmospheric, and didn't inhibit my view of the meteors.

Rose of the Day

Rosa rugosa Alba, White Rugosa. Quite a perfect rose, in its loveliness and it's simplicity. Dating from 1784, and sold in England around 1796, it was described as a single pure white flower, "of five petals and highly scented, followed by pretty berries [i.e. hips]." Another source says, quite accurately, "Bud is delicately tinted with pink."

It's hard to image that the pinkish bud can open into a flower so snowy, but it always does. Hardy and beautiful and fragrant, with wonderful foliage, no gardener could ask for more!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Full Potential

What do I want to be when I grow up? Even before experiencing Ruth's popularity on Saturday, and ever since, I've been mulling over her future. We've explored various training options, trying to make the best decision. Although she's still a youngster, she seems temperamentally suited to public activities. If she proves as trainable as I suspect she may be, we're going to look into Therapy Dog certification. And if, after assessment by a trainer, that isn't right for her, then there's a chance she could be a part of the SPCA's school program. An SPCA staff member takes a dog into classrooms to teach kids the basics of how to treat your pet and proper animal welfare.

I've spent lots of time on the phone with experts--none of whom has actually met Ruth yet--and my own knowledge is rapidly growing.

Next month, we'll probably start Level 1 dog obedience. Depending on how things go, after graduation we'll perhaps take the Therapy Dog training class. (Level 1 is the prerequsite.)

Wish us luck!

She's a working breed, after all. She's compact enough to be easily portable, and she likes going places. And sweet and friendly as she is, it would be a privilege to share her with people who might somehow benefit from the encounter.

My family thinks I have potential!

My Sunday afternoon weeding session in the garden went well. I finished one whole bed--the biggest. I discovered there's a limit to how much Queen Anne's Lace even I can tolerate. It's obvious that a couple of years ago, I had a very laissez-faire attitude to the seedlings--now I've got these great saplings of it all over the place. I yanked up many and resolved to be more firm in the future! I also divided some lavender and moved it about.

Several more beds to go, but they'll have to wait.

Some of the roses are blooming or budded. The constant rain last night will make them happy.

My garden will never really reach its full potential, and that's all right. People who know about my lifelong obssession with horticulture and my rather spacious property, say, "Oh, you must have a beautiful garden!"

Not really. I have rather large, quirky, unruly gardens filled with many beautiful plants. There's a distinction between this, and "a beautiful garden." I'm never more aware of that than in late summer....

But in my eyes it's simply splendid, and that's what really matters.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pup, Pigs, Pies & Politics

Yesterday Ruth and I participated in the fine New England tradition that is Old Home Day. This year's theme being "Country," I put on one of my peasant blouses and a kerchief-print skirt, and tied a bandana around her neck. This is the first time I've ever dressed up like my dog, or vice versa.

the candidate and her dog dressed alike

Our red and white colours matched my political signs--big red letters on white background--and the cloth of the table we occupied all morning and into the afternoon. Most of the other local candidates for state office had tables.

Everybody wanted to stop and pet Ruth, from toddlers on up. She was so adorable and so good, and loved the attention.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy and cool, and lots of people turned up. We had a wonderful vantage for the parade. Our favourite float had a country farming theme, a flatbed trailer with bales of hay, children in straw hats, a sheep, a chicken in a wooden crate, a lovely little black-and-white calf, and a very cute pink pig in a large wire cage. There were equestrians (including a lady riding sidesaddle), also a parade of tractors and classic cars and all kinds of commercial and logging vehicles. All the participants assembled on the field for judging.

While that went on, Ruth and I left the table to visit other displays. Ours was a slow progress, with kids--and adults--darting over to ask me, "Can I pet your dog?" It wasn't long before Ruth was the most-petted dog in town, maybe in the entire state! She made a lot of friends. She's so small and so friendly, she's not intimidating to little folk.

Saw plenty of folks I know during and after our wanderings, and benefitted from sharing a table with a very recognisable incumbent who has lived here all his life! Ruth was lying down quite contentedly in the shade of our table, people-watching. The farm float was parked directly in front of us, so we had a great view of the animals. That pig was almost as popular as Ruth!

We came back to the Lodge in the afternoon. Lola was hanging out, watching the Chap carry out some tasks indoors and out.

Lola hanging out at home

Later, the Chap and I went to the park for the big Pig Roast (not the pig from the parade!) and Beanhole Bean Supper at the Pavilion.

Prepping the roasted pigs

Here's a shot of the skating pond, taken while we waited in the long line to buy our supper tickets.

skating pond in summer

People all over town make fresh pies--the selection is mind-boggling! I had a piece of rhubarb pie, and half a piece of rhubarb-strawberry. Both were excellent.

I really needed a break from the news from Britain, and from so many wars. This morning, the Sunday edition of Doonesbury almost made me cry.

Taking advantage of another perfect day, sunny and 65 degrees, I'm planning an afternoon in the garden, tackling the weeds. If they don't tackle me first!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Icky Day, Pretty Rose

As usual on days when there's scary news out of London, related to the airport (as now) or the Underground (as last summer) I receive emails asking, "Where are you?" We're safe and sound at the Lodge, worrying about family and friends who are Stateside and about to cross the Atlantic, or living on the other side of the Atlantic and finding their August holiday travel disrupted by today's events.

We were very much surprised to learn that our usual Boston flight in and out of London--our regular taxi service back and forth two, three, up to four times a year--was not actually a target. Although today's flights were cancelled anyway. We've listened to the news bulletins and watched the televised reports with interest and a mix of emotions. Our sympathies are with those who are in transit today, and are being inconvenienced by the raised threat levels Here and There. Not to mention the unexpected seizure of hand luggage and surrender of all their lotions and potions, something that would freak me out. But which I would understand, in the circumstances.

While listening to the Beeb this morning, I cuddled the wee dog and we played Fetch, and Manic Border Collie Chase (the indoor and outdoor versions). Am focussing on good things and thinking happy thoughts.

Our hummingbirds are very active and exceedingly hungry. They are constant visitors to the Monarda (bee balm) growing at my office window, and zip back and forth from the feeders on the deck where we eat breakfast and the porch where I work during the afternoon.

We've also had some hawk sightings--the Chap and Lola and Ruth had a close-up encounter yesterday during a walk.

The chapter I've recently alluded to is finished and the next one underway. I've got an important meeting later, and I'm the moderator, meaning some prep work. Not sure how much progress I can make today.

I've been working on my sidebar, adding some New England blogsites, and I have additional links to add at some point soon.

Rose of the Day

William Morris. Here's another David Austin English Rose. I bought this mail order, at a massive discount from Jackson & Perkins a few years ago. It was a package deal, and I wasn't as keen to own this one as the other two in the package, thinking it would be too apricot-ty or peachy (yellow tones.) I prefer true pink hues, which work better with the blue and mauve and silvery perennials I grow in that particular bed.

But this year it has really come into its own, and in my soil it's definitely more pink than peach.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Other sights seen Saturday night

We were supposed to go somewhere yesterday but we didn't. He went to town. I stayed home to write more of that chapter I started on Saturday. It's nearly finished now.

My work that day, and on Sunday, may not sound terribly productive--"one third of a chapter." If it were a three-page chapter, that wouldn't be so much. But my chapters average 4500-5000 words, about 18 pages. In the early drafts, that is, because I often alter my chapter breaks around in later revisions.

So I'm getting down about 1500-1800 words a day, interspersed with the usual reading of reference materials, and outlining upcoming scenes. If the streak lasts, then I'll make my mid-September goal. Concurrently with this writing, I continue to make some pretty useful discoveries about the characters. Even though the primary research phase is over, it never actually stops!

At the Balloon Festival on Saturday night, there were other sights besides the balloons.

Near where we parked, we spotted this marvellous Morris Minor, a rare sight on this side of the Pond. What a beauty! (But that steering wheel is definitely on the wrong side!)

a well tended Morris Minor

A group of re-enactors had set up camp on the riverbank.

re-enactors' camp

And we saw something fascinating we'd read about in the press...

Battling Bull Moose

Somebody was walking in the woods one day and came upon the carcasses of two bull moose. In combat their great antlers had become locked--they couldn't release themselves, and there they died, stuck together for eternity.

A long and difficult taxidermy project ensued, with the result seen below.

locked together forever

It's a tragic story--refuting the concept of "survival of the fittest"--but an amazing display. These animals are enormous, and the taxidermist did a fine job re-creating the intensity of their facial expressions.

an intense fight

Here at our peaceful Lodge, the Stargazer lilies I potted up are blooming. The porch is wonderfully fragrant as a result, and the scent wafts into our bedroom with every breeze.

my stargazer lilies

Off to bake some cookies. Yes, I've got a meeting this afternoon!