Monday 29 April 2013

folk tale from Firth of Clyde - for Once Upon a Time


As it's late, and after celebrating a birthday this weekend (the Husband turned 42 to his dismay), and setting up Netflix for the kids, I suddenly find it's almost the end of the weekend and I haven't posted yet.  So in lieu of anything clever to say,

 here is a delightful folk-tale from the Firth of Clyde, from my The Lore of Scotland book I am reading from for Once Upon A Time VII Challenge. My first post was done here, on some fairy lore.

                 Firth of Clyde,  Renfrewshire

 "Once when a girl who lived in Port Glasgow died of consumption, her funeral procession was halted by a mermaid in the Firth of Clyde, who appeared from the waves and cried:
          If they wad drink nettles in March
                And eat muggans in May
         Sae mony braw maidens
                  Wadna gang to the clay.

Nettle tea was a country remedy for consumption, as was 'muggans' or mugwort, mentioned also in the song of the Mermaid of Galloway whose favourite haunt was Dalbeattie Burn (Dumfries and Galloway).
        Mugwort, muggins, and muggans are all coutnry names for Artemisia vulgaris, a member of the daisy family which grows in waste places all over Britain.  It was believed to ease period pains, and perhaps the idea that it stemmed blood-flow led to its use in cases of tuberculosis where blood was coughed up.  As its Latin name suggests, the plant was associated with Artemis or Diana, virgin goddess of the moon who also had power over lunar cycles, hence menstruation, and childbirth.  She was sometimes represented in half-fish form, and considered to care for lakes and rivers, lending particular interest to the fact that it is a mermaid who recommends the use of mugwort in these Scottish stories."   p 182
     I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and signs of spring are arriving in your area.

Saturday 20 April 2013

50 Things for my garden


  So, it is Farmer's Market, hosted by Chris at Stuff Dreams are Made Of,  and I have finally got on here on a Saturday!  Sadly, here in Ottawa the Farmer's Markets don't start until May, and nothing can be planted until  after the May long weekend (usually around May 18-20), when the danger of frost at night is finally past. To cheer myself up because it is snowing today, and cold, I am going to blog about the garden I want this year.

My plan:
 I thought I would share with you my big plan for my garden this year.  I am turning 50 in May, and I thought as part of my celebration, I would plant 50 new plants into my garden.

 I have some roses (above), and peonies, which are the centers  of my garden and around which my garden is built. It's based on flowers for bees and butterflies, because I love the idea of feeding insects this way.  I get to see the butterflies, and they get much needed nectar  :-)  I do have a butterfly bush, which is the star of my back garden, when it blooms in late July.  Here is a link to a post I did two years ago about some of the little statues I put in my garden during the summer, and here is one about flowers in my garden, from last summer.

Below is a picture of my garden, in July, from this past year.  The butterfly bush is way in the back, between the phlox (the bright pink flowers) and the tiger lilies.

The big plant is phlox, a lovely deep.  

And in amongst the roses, I have these lilies.

Black-eyed Susans, my namesake!
I even tried gladiolas the year before, of which this lovely pink one came up unexpectedly last year.

 These are some of the flowers  in my  garden.  I love flowers, they delight my soul.  I find I am so happy after being around flowers.  They soothe me, and calm me, and I am deeply delighted by them.

So I want to celebrate my 50th by adding more flowers to my garden.

I thought I would ask you, dear blogger friends, what are your favourite flowers?  What do you like to see in gardens?  Do you have an idea or a suggestion for me?  I will as the summer goes on, show the ones I am adding, and give you updates through the Farmer's Market on how my garden is doing.  I will be making a list of 50 flowers that I want to add, once I can figure out how to add to my header pages with this new blogger update.

For now, I am so cheered up doing this post!  Thank you Chris, for holding the Farmer's Market on your Saturdays, and giving us a space to blog about our plants.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Broken Harbour - brilliant madness, but.....

        When I read Lesley's review of Broken Harbour here, I thought to myself, all right, I must be missing something.  I mean, Broken Harbour is nominated for an award this year.  Why am I the only one who has difficulty with it?  What am I missing in this book?  Because, you see, I have a confession to make:  I both loved and hated this book.

What I loved:
     Okay, Broken Harbour is brilliant in places.  I really liked the main character, Mick Kennedy, and his family.  His mother's madness and what it did to the family is one of the best pieces I have read on family secrets and how they destroy everyone from the inside out.  Mick's sense of needing to control everything comes from this.  His inability to work with anyone, and his desire to be in control in everything, especially in pursuing evidence and interviews, is insightful and clever.  This was the most gripping part of the book for me, the revelation through the book of Mick's family and what happened to them at Broken Harbour.

The mystery itself was really well done.  I couldn't take my eyes off the page.  There I was that Sunday in February, reading the book intently, planning with one part of my mind how long it would take me to read it in one sitting, and if anyone would mind if Sunday dinner were really late, say after 8 pm, so I could keep reading straight through to the end.  I did not want to stop. That's how good the first half is.  Then suddenly! Bam!

   There I sat, blinking dazedly in the dining table (where I do a lot of my reading when the family is home.)  What had just happened?  I was thrown out of the book at the point when Richie, Mick's new and young partner, and Mick are going through the chief suspect's home.  Richie finds something, but it is not until the end of the book that we learn what it is.  At the moment that he finds it, his sudden change of character shocked me.  It threw me out.  But it wasn't just that, it was as Mick gets the phone call pointing to more evidence that the husband is the killer.  I think I might have said out loud, "but he didn't!"  and  as I sat there in the dining room, I realized I was upset with the story.  It wasn't the husband.  It was the wife.  I knew it.  And I did something I haven't done in many many years: I read the ending, to see if I was right.

I eventually two days later went back and read the rest of the book.  I'm glad I did, because I saw the rest of what Mick had become and what happens in the investigation.  But the question I was left with was, how could the killer have done it?  I was shocked that I was suddenly out of the story like that.  Something wasn't right in the telling, and it's taken me most of these weeks to figure out what it was.

What I don't believe in the book:  
     This is what bothered me so much:  I kept waiting for someone in the family that is murdered, the mother or the father, to be revealed to have some history of mental illness or depression.  It was the only thing that made sense.  And it wasn't there.  The slow deterioration of the father, the wife's panic as their live unraveled: all well written and believable.  But neither person is shown to have any history of a slight break, depression, anything that would make what happened that night believable.

     What I really wanted, was for the mother to have had some kind of history, that would make what happened believable.  The husband's breakdown is so well-done. That's what economic loss can do to someone who hasn't shown signs of any kind of problem coping before with setbacks.  It was the wife that bothered me. Not just what she did, but why she did it.

My confession:
      I have suffered from depression on and off in my life.  My family suffers from it. Anxiety, stress, and panic attacks.  We all have them.  So when I read about Mick and his family, the great terrible act, and the repercussions on the characters, what happens to each family member is note perfect. I haven't lived through such a terrible event, but there are scars in my family from what depression has done and is doing to all of us.  So this part was gripping and I couldn't look away. It's one of the best accounts of madness and suicide that I have come across in fiction.  Which is why I wanted the same kind of depth or understanding with the murderer, to understand why the act was committed.

It is only today, reading Lesley's fun post and all the comments, and thinking over everyone's general acclaim of this book, that I was able to understand that I wanted the wife to suffer from depression too.  That would have made what happened next in the story, absolutely believable, and so much more horrifying than it already is in the novel.  Because then the breakdown of Ireland's society would fully impact on the broken, the ones least able to protect themselves, and the most vulnerable first. Though I suspect that Tana French wanted to show how the breakdown in the economy could affect normal people,  by which I mean healthy people who don't suffer from mental illness.  I think (and thought while reading it) in this story, why didn't the wife just pick up the kids and leave?  So what if she couldn't admit their live wasn't perfect?  Is that excuse enough to do what she  did?  Or why not get her husband the help he needed?  I know why she did it, on the surface it makes sense:  the whole family was getting infected by the husband's madness.  But in the secret places of the mind, where darkness and struggle really live, this book lacks that resonance for me in the wife's story.  I much more believe in Mick's family than I do in what the wife in the victim's family did to hers.

As a breakdown of a seemingly normal family, it is good.  I can see why this book is garnering praise.  It just doesn't fully ring true.  I wish it did.  I wish I didn't know what I know about depression, too.....

So, it's a brilliant mystery novel that mostly succeeds.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Did you love this novel?  Did anyone have any difficulty with it like I did?

Other reviews:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?
Rhapsody in Books
S.Krishna's Books
An Adventure in Reading

If you have read it, please let me know and I'll link to it.

Monday 8 April 2013

For Once Upon a Time: a bit of fairy lore


  The Lore of Scotland, by Jennifer Westwood and  Sophia Kingshill, is a collection which I am reading in bits and pieces for the Once Upon a Time Challenge, for fairy tales and folk tales sections of the challenge. This book is so interesting - it has all kinds of Scottish legends, myths, fairy tales, and folk tales, collected from all over Scotland.

For your folk tale and fairy reading pleasure on this late Sunday night, here is a folk tale about a brownie:

Boghall Farm, Near Dollar, Clackmannanshire

The Brownie was very like a man in shape.  His entire body was covered with brown hairs, hence his name. He slept all day and worked all night, when the whole farmhhouse was hushed in slumber. Although possessed of great strength he was harmless, and had more of a forgiving than a revengeful turn of mind. His food was sowans (oats steeped in water) and sweet milk, while his bed consisted of straw made up in some cosy corner of the barn.  To the farm of Boghall, near Dollar, Brownie rendered essential services; but it happened one very severe winter, when the snow lay deep upon the ground, and the frost was so intense as to freeze every running stream and well,that the woman of the house, afraid that her friendly Brownie would die, laid down some warm blankets on his heap of straw.  Seeing this, he immediately left the place saying:
    To leave my old haunts, oh! my heart is
   But the wife gave me blankets - she'll see
     me nae mair;
  I've worked in her barn, frae evening till
  My curse on the blankets that drove me
   All the boon that I asked were my
     sowans and strae,
  But success to Bhoga' although
     Brownie's away.

Although he wished well to his former home, Boghall was never the same again.  'At the present day, it is little better than a wilderness', ends this account of the Boghall Brownie printed in The Scottish Journal of Topography in 1848.

Monday 1 April 2013

Happy Easter! Cake and I won at Monopoly, and April fool's day....


  Happy Easter, dear book bloggers.  Above is a picture of the Easter cake I made this morning, from Nigella Lawson's cook book Feast.  Easter Egg Nest Cake.  Yum.  It's flourless, made with chocolate, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, with whipping cream and more chocolate for the icing.  MMMMMM.
The Dr Who comes from the game of Monopoly we played after Easter lunch.  Dr Who Monopoly was a Christmas gift we gave to our family this year.  It's quickly becoming a big hit with us.  Dr Who lives at our family....I will be doing a post shortly on just how much Dr Who is alive here.  But first: I won!  I won the game!  Usually I am the first loser (which as you know is the BIG loser of the game), or second last. I use the scarf (from 4th Doctor Tom Baker), which my daughter says is because I am like him.  In the picture below are my eldest son's girlfriend, my eldest son and youngest son next to him, then my husband and my daughter.  The cupcakes were brought by Heidi, a wonderful surprise and very delicious too.
Then, mother nature played a joke on us:
*sigh*  The temperature is going to plummet tonight, and very cold the next few days.

What Reading Time?
 I haven't been able to read with getting ready for Easter (Easter hunt, two meals, etc), though I am reading Of Blood and Honey and enjoying it so far.  Now I wish I had a day to just read!!!  We are about to watch The Hobbit to round out the evening.

Still, I made sure the bunny was good to me:
 Below is the book I bought for myself for Easter:  Candlenight by Phil Rickman.  It's his first novel published, and not available until recently.  It looks good, set in a remote Welsh Mountain village, with an ancient secret the villagers are hiding.  No one does atmospheric horror like Rickman.  Happy Easter, everyone!  I hope the bunny was good to you too!