Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My year in books

I started keeping track of the books I was reading when we were living in Vancouver last January. There might be a couple missing from the first days of the year, and of course I might have forgotten to include one or two. The oldest ones are at the bottom of the list.  Right now we have 64 on the list, and I bet I'll finish number 65 before the end of the year. 

This was the year of Black Lives Matter, and there are several books on this list that I discovered from articles or library blogs about black authors. I especially enjoyed Nairobi Heat by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, about an American cop who follows a lead to Nairobi and teams up with another officer to solve a multinational crime. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead was as stunning as his previous book, The Underground Railroad. 

In January we were (blissfully) living in Vancouver, in a retired professor's apartment, so some of the books at the bottom of the list were ones that were lying around. We had no public library card, so relied on his bookshelves and Little Free Libraries. Highlights from this group were My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele, Kaffe Fassett's niece, and Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege by Mike Thomson.

I read lots of non-fiction this year, I think because it's nice to have the facts about something, an anchor of reality in this wacky and "unreal" 2020. Recently I got riled up about public toilets and the lack thereof, especially in this pandemic, and read No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs by Lezlie Lowe and then for historical context Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth by Lee Jackson. After reading the first one, which was written by a woman who was first outraged about public toilets when she would go to parks with her young children, I had a book in my pile about Auschwitz. I found that I could handle outrage about toilets but I was not ready to deal with that, so back it went to the library. 

A lot of the fiction I read this year was "comfort" reading: a few Harry Potters, a few Ian Rankins, On the Road, Anne Tyler, even Nevil Shute! 

I used to volunteer at the local documentary cinema and would see probably 40 or 50 docs a year (I will keep a list when next I am able). I now find that although I have access to many movies online, I don't watch many documentaries, but I'll rewatch the Crown or some British cop show instead. It's just not the same sitting here alone in my living room watching on a laptop. 

Did you have a favourite book of the past year? 

Books read since Jan. 1, 2020
  • The Pine Islands, Marion Poschmann
  • Dirty Old London: the Victorian fight against filth, Lee Jackson
  • Pastoral, Nevil Shute
  • Sweater Quest: My year of living dangerously, Adrienne Martini

  • The Five: the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold
  • No Place to Go: How public toilets fail our private needs, Lezlie Lowe
  • Love Enough, Dionne Brand
  • Crap: a history of cheap stuff in America, Wendy A Woloson
  • Little Fish, Casey Plett

  • Aubrey McKee, Alex Pugsley
  • A Song for the Dark Times, Ian Rankin
  • Redhead by the side of the road, Anne Tyler
  • Vancouver After Dark: The Wild History of a City's Nightlife, Aaron Chapman
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

  • The Bohemians: The lovers who led Germany's resistance against the Nazis, Norman Ohler
  • Cemetery Boys, Heather Brewer
  • They said this would be fun: race, campus life, and growing up, Eternity Martis
  • The Last Gang in Town: The epic story of the Vancouver police vs. the Clark Park gang, Aaron Chapman
  • Black Star Nairobi, Mukoma Wa Ngugi

  • 1536: The year that changed Henry VIII, Suzannah Lipscomb
  • Versailles, Colin Jones
  • Blacktop Wasteland, S A Cosby
  • Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Black Docker, Ousmane Sembène

  • You look like a thing and I love you: How artificial intelligence works and why it's making the world a weirder place
  • Somebody's Gotta Do It: Why cursing at the news won't save the nation, but your name on a local ballot can, Adrienne Martini
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • Rule Britannia, Daphne du Maurier
  • 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy, James P P Horn

  • Nairobi Heat, Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ
  • Heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta-maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  • Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs
  • N is for Noose, Sue Grafton

  • No Crystal Stair: a novel, Mairuth Sarsfield
  • Maigret at the Crossroads, Georges Simenon
  • The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel
  • Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  • George, Alex Gino

  • In a House of Lies, Ian Rankin
  • Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
  • The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
  • The Falls, Ian Rankin
  • The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

  • Gumboot Girls: adventure, love & survival on British Columbia's north coast, a collection of memoirs compiled by Jane Wilde & edited by Lou Allison
  • Scurvy: how a surgeon, a mariner and a gentleman solved the greatest medical mystery of the age of sail
  • Exit Music, Ian Rankin
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

  • Sahara, Michael Palin
  • The Last Duel: a true story of crime, scandal, and trial by combat in medieval France, Eric Jager
  • Brighton Rock, Graham Greene
  • Syria's Secret Library: Reading and redemption in a town under siege, Mike Thomson
  • Anil's Ghost, Michael Ondaatje

  • The Complaints, Ian Rankin
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
  • Lieutenant Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • Earth and High Heaven, Gwethalyn Graham

  • My Nepenthe: Bohemian tales of food, family, and Big Sur, Romney Steele
  • The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
  • Mr Midshipman Hornblower, C.S. Forester
  • The Woman in Blue, Elly Griffiths
  • The Silk Train Murder: A mystery of the Klondike, Sharon Rowse

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Still here

Less than a week till Christmas! 

My shopping has mostly been online this year; my baking has been sporadic; I have knit nothing for gifts; we have the tree up and lights on the house. 

The other day I went to pick something up from a shop downtown, and when I finally looked in the bag yesterday, I found there were only five things when there should have been six. Today I had to go back to get the last item. 

I rode a share bike half the way there, walked the rest, and took the subway home. 

Me in a subway station: 

Friday, December 11, 2020

As promised

Three new dishcloths!

This is the last one I made: just keep increasing along the centre line till you run out of yarn! There was even a bit of yarn chicken here. I was casting off and ran out of yarn two or three stitches before the end, so I took out the cast-off row and just redid it tighter, and got myself several inches of yarn that way! I was quite chuffed. 

The round one. This is the Crazy Eights cloth, a favourite of mine. 

Another fave is the Chinese Waves, which is the same stitch as the Honey Cowl. Nice two-sided texture. 

I don't know if anyone will get these for Christmas, since they are so blah coloured. Probably they will join the ranks here in the kitchen drawer. It may be time to retire some of our older models.  

And now I suppose I have to go back to the mitten! I am reading a book now about tackling a big, fancy, multi-coloured knitting project. One mitten is nothing compared to Mary Tudor. If she can knit that sweater in a year (and write a book about it) I can surely knit one wee mitten in a month or so, right? Stay tuned. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wandering about in the cold

Today a friend and I went out eastward to see the new Cherry Street bridge. I had read some hoopla about how lovely this new bridge is, how it will open up new parkland, blah blah blah. 

Perhaps in a few years it will. 

Now it is in place but not connected to anything; it is behind a construction fence. There is hardly even a sidewalk in front of it.

So that was a bit of a let-down! Right now it's not a very lovely part of the world, but there is a "waterfront" path so we walked back towards downtown along that. Lots of new construction, a new college campus, tons of stuff going on. I'm sure one day it'll be grand.

We also stopped for a moment at Sugar Beach, a manufactured beach next to the Redpath Sugar refinery, which my kids once toured and saw a bulldozer moving the sugar around inside! There is even a museum in the refinery, but I have never gone.

The beach has these cute pink umbrellas and must be nice in the summer.

In knitting news, I have made a few dishcloths out of some beigy-browny cotton. They look tea-stained already, fresh off the needles! It is now dark and gloomy here, but I will take some pictures soon in the daylight and show you. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

December planning

Mid-November I made this list. It's not really a to-do list, as it turned out, but let's have a look. 

  1. It's a month and a bit till Christmas.
  2. I have mailed away the only gift I have to mail, but I guess I should nag my husband about his side of the family. 
  3. I have to write some cards. Cards to family and friends, and eventually cards to complete strangers via Ravelry. I think this year people need cheerful cards, and lots of them. 
  4. I have not acquired all the gifts I want to give to family, because I am not sure what they want/need. 
  5. All this decluttering and non-keeping makes gift-giving more stressful than it should be. Not everyone wants a piece of cheese (although a nice piece of cheese has sort of become a go-to present around here). 
  6. I like to have Christmas cookies around but Stephen can't really eat them. I asked him what he wanted for treats and snacks and he says potato chips and wine. I suggest carrots and celery. He scoffs.
  7. There are other things to think about as well; this is supposed to be a to-do list. 
  8. Knitting: the fancy mitten should take precedence, but it does require constant attention and so I have to have a back-up knit as well. 
  9. I would love to sew all my old jeans up into a nice big blanket. 
I have done all the cards. Will get them in the mail today, or the next time it stops raining.
I have acquired all the gifts, except a couple of back-ordered items which should arrive in a week or so.
I have made cookies, but there are always more cookies to be made. 
Knitting the mitten.... let's just remember that it took me four years to finish the first one. I did start a dishcloth as back-up knitting. 
Blanket! Such fun!

So, can I make a new list? 
  1. Sew the fun blanket
  2. Knit the warm woolly mitten
  3. Make even more cookies
  4. Prepare for the how-do-we-socially-distance-in-the-house visit of my brother. We all lead pretty careful and solitary lives these days so I think the risk is low. 
  5. I have to get to the good butcher shop and get a brisket for Christmas dinner.
  6. I have to decide upon a brisket recipe. Maybe that calls for its own blog post. 
  7. We'll get the tree out and decorations up when youngest child returns from university. 
  8. We hope to have a Zoom Christmas party. Maybe the 18th or so. If we are clever we can entertain people from England to Vancouver Island. I think that is eight time zones. 
Enough to be getting on with, I think!