The first shot had left me feeling a bit sickly for a week. This one had me brain foggy, groggy, inattentive (my sincerest apologies to the very nice person I inadvertently very nearly ran over with my shopping cart in Trader Joe’s. I swear I didn’t think I was that close.), and a bit crotchety for four days. But…. an imaginary drumroll here if you please….my head has cleared! In a couple of weeks, I will be secure in the knowledge I can – with exercising common sense caution – expand my world!
Wheels in motion – plans being made – and a minor celebration is in order. First, to my hair stylist! Haven’t a clue what that color is that’s growing in, (murky brown with gray highlights?) but I shall return to my new natural auburn. Next, a tour of my favorite independent bookstores – I can smell my credit card smoking already -purchases to be enjoyed with a cup from my neighborhood coffee shop. And lastly, a trip to the gluten free bakery across town with a reputation for being the best in town. I’ve only eaten her delightful baked goods once, but I know I’ll want to buy a cake when I get there. To be washed down at home with a bottle of my favorite Prosecco.
I made a decision last week. I firmly took myself to task regarding my overflowing bookshelves and informed myself I was not to buy a single new book, (I haven’t browsed my library since early last year), until I started/resumed/finished reading everything I already owned. Fine. I started poking thru the stacks, peeked behind the decorative doodads – thoroughly enjoying myself I might add – when this little gem caught my eye:
Dr. Chase’s Recipes – or – Information – for – Everybody
(um…didn’t mean to make that so dramatic. Still learning this block editing stuff. my apologies.)
This little gem came from a different time and place – in more ways than one. I found this book in one of the best used bookstores I’ve ever shopped. It was located in the charming old town center of Sarasota, Florida. Drift back a couple of decades, technically into the last century, to Sarasota. A sleepy little town -considered at the time to be on the undesirable side of Florida – populated by a mix of locals and snowbirds inundated for a few weeks every year by rowdies, and then left in peace to slumber on. An early morning off season visit to the magnificent white sands of Siesta Key would take your breath away. A sublime moment; seemly endless miles of solitude, grace, beauty, and raw power shared only with sea birds, the sand rakes and the occasional senior citizen. Following such a morning, sunburned to a shade that alarms passing strangers (I could be using sunblock 850,000 and still burn), while wandering the shops downtown Sarasota, I met Dr. Chase.
My edition, printed in 1876, was the seventy-third edition. This little cure all book is in turns hysterically funny, appalling, and a tad scary. A skim through the table of contents alone is mind-boggling. Why you could learn how to make Apple Custard, Blood Root Tincture, and wait…….Opposite page under Index of Illustrations: Shilling Battery! I could make my own Shilling Battery! What’s a shilling battery? And hey- a cure for Deafness? page 118: Deafness. If Recent, to Cure -If not, to Relieve. – Hen’s oil, 1 gill;……..wait… under 2. “Much has been said in France about sulphuric ether first tried by Madam Cleret, of Paris; and, although she lost her reason by the elation of feeling brought on, no doubt, by the honor given her for the discovery, yet the continued trial of the article does not give the satisfaction which had been hoped for, from its first success.” Hey…What? I mean… oh dear…. And so follows the rest of Dr. Chase’ s disturbing little book. I’ll spare you the glossary section and the ‘new to this edition’ section for General Female Debility and Irregularities.
Well. Right about now I usually decide that is enough history for me. Time to leave behind the Mill-Picks and Saw Gummers, the Grain-Side Blacking, for Ten Cents a Barrel, and poor Madam Cleret (and all the others reminisced about in this book), and rejoin – happily- my century- and a new pick from shelf. Although, after experiencing Dr. Chase and his seventy plus editions, I must add: I strongly suspect a couple of centuries from now, a reader will be alternately chuckling and gasping through our books.
As we – who live in daylight savings time zones that is – already know, yesterday brought the time change euphemistically known as ‘Spring Forward’.
I think it is safe to say I have never sprung forward in my life. At best, I trudge, grumbling as I go (of course), into six months of awaking far too early. Various relatives, grandparents etc would condemn me as ‘lazy bones’. Not true. My body clock is simply set differently – for me 2:00 AM to bed and 10:00 AM to rise is just plain ‘right’. I decided to pass the ‘Spring Forward’ day as I usually do – sulking on the sofa with a book. I grabbed the first one on my pile, Snobbery withViolence by Marion Chesney – a mystery set in England’s Edwardian high society world.
From the book’s dust jacket:
“When a marriage proposal appears imminent for the beautiful – if rebellious – Lady Rose Summer, her father wants to know if her suitor’s intentions are honorable. He calls on Captain Harry Cathcart, the impoverished younger son of a baron to do some intelligence work on the would -be finance, Sir Geoffrey Blandon. After his success in uncovering Geoffrey’s dishonorable motives, Harry fashions a career out of “fixing” things for wealthy aristocrats. So when the Marquess of Hedley finds one of his guests dead at a lavish house party, he knows just the to call. But when Harry is caught between his client’s desire for discretion and his suspicion that murder may indeed have been committed, he enlists the help of Superintendent Kerridge of the Scotland Yard and Lady Rose, also a guest at Lord Hedley’s.”
We quickly find out Lady Rose was photographed at suffragette demonstration, well read and intelligent. Strike three for a titled girl in Edwardian world. We also discover she is lacking in the social graces/skills need to function in her environment as well as having no discernible survival instinct and, well, basically unlikable. Her social ineptitude is finally explained about a third of the way into the book when she speaks about her parents, “It was only on my seventeenth birthday when they asked how old I was that they realized they would need to prepare me for a season.”. Ah. An explanation at last, but still not enough to warm to her. And finally, nearing the end of the book, “I always feel as if I am outside of them all, surveying some elaborate play and I do not know my lines.” If only this revelation had come earlier.
As for Harry? I started out liking him. The enjoyment quickly dissipated when we see that he is jealous of Lady Rose’s intelligence and rude to her : He calls her ‘unfeminine’ on many occasions which would seem to be the ultimate insult in Edwardian society.
However, I stuck with this book because I did like the secondary characters, Rose’s maid Daisy and Harry’s servant Becket. These two were three dimensional, smarter than their employers, personable, and I wanted to know more about them. There was a spark between them and I liked their development.
A quick word about about the setting and additional character development: There wasn’t nearly enough. Rose’s fellow guests sort of blended together and I think Superintendent Kerridge could have had a bit more focus.
I really wanted to like this book. It had potential: The main characters are both intelligent misfits in their society – it could have worked. But for me it fell a bit flat. All that said, if you are sulking on your sofa and need a quick read, Daisy and Becket are a likable duo.
There had been rumors of a statewide weather warming trend coming this week. Up into the sixties even. I didn’t quite believe the news.
Like virtually.. well, everywhere, these past couple/few months have been frigid. and snowy. and icy. Although we have been fortunate to escape the despair of Texas, it has still been pretty darn nasty. I’ve spent the vast majority of this winter wrapped in a sweater, a shawl, and on occasion, an afghan whilst sitting on the sofa. While this position makes for a lovely reading space, especially when accompanied with a glass of wine, it does not make for a lovely step onto the bathroom scale. That moment when you hop off then on again thinking, ‘I could not possibly….I mean….OhComeOn’. The time to act is clearly now. Actually, the acting time was anywhere from six weeks to three months ago, but now is not the time to split hairs.
The morning brought sunshine and coffee. I frowned at the sparkle beyond my window. The leafless shrubs rattled. ‘Aha’, thought I. I’ve been tricked before by bright welcoming sun, only to be blasted by a frigid wind. I seized my iPad. Local temperature – 51f. huh. I decided: Today I would resume my walk/run program. Actually, I had barely gotten into the ‘run’ part of the program before the weather had made it impossible to continue. I had hit the point where I would stride – with purpose- for a bit then jog, sort of, for a bit. Past at least two or three houses.
I started my preparations for A New Exercise Program. I pulled out my thickest sweatpants. Exercise bra, long sleeve breathable cotton t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt (in case of sudden frigid wind gusts), super terrific walking sneakers, find and recharge Fitbit, and then a light yet sustaining breakfast (technically brunch at this point). Breakfast was a large bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, raisins, and a teaspoon and a half of peanut butter for extra protein. Bathroom, coat and out the door.
Done and done! I had Restarted an Exercise Program! So what if I had only walked for twenty minutes? And I think maybe I pulled something…. I was breathing hard – -which could be because of the slight pain in my thigh, the layers of clothing or the result of Exercise. I guess time will tell. In the meantime, a pat on the back for me!
I just realized I wrote that like this was an extraordinary occurrence- even added an exclamation point. Might as well tell the truth. Buying books comes naturally to me. This behavior was actually encouraged by my parents: Instead of saying ‘ooooh Mom…….can I have those earrings? (or t-shirt or whatnot)’, I’d say ‘ooooh Mom….can I have that paperback?’ And Mom (or Dad) would say ‘Yes’. You see? Early training does stick. But back to my treasure.
When the libraries closed last year, I turned to my still-to-be-read-piles of books on my shelves. Unfortunately, I couldn’t always find quite the right book for my mood. Then I found ThriftBooks. Very reasonably priced and quick to arrive, I am hooked. I haven’t bought many new releases this past year, rather, I’ve been sticking to those that have been out for a bit. Better late than never.
I read the first in the Cormoran Strike series The Cuckoo’s Calling and liked it so much I had to get The Silkworm. Cormoran Strike is Robert Galbraith’s flawed private detective. The Cuckoo’s Calling established him as an intelligent detective but quirky; an odd childhood with a distinguished military career cut short. When we meet him, he is down on his luck. Short of clients, cash, and recently thrown out of his girlfriend’s apartment, Cormoran has no choice to but to live in his office. Into this arrangement comes his new temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott. I enjoyed the development of the characters as well as the plot line. I am looking forward to reading more about this duo.
I could spend quite some time extolling on the delights of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries. Her books have become a lovely escape during this pandemic. Worried? Stressed? Twitchy? Stop doom scrolling and vanish into 1929 St. Kilda. For a moment, just play pretend you are there…… intelligent, resourceful, daring, stunning (she was portrayed by Essie Davis), and Uncle Scrooge McDuck wealthy. You have Mr. and Mrs. Butler attending to your every need, Dot the faithful assistant, and Bert and Cec the cab driving back up. Relax and enjoy. Sooner or later you will remember things like- no air conditioning, sketchy medical care, you know, reality. That’s okay – it was nice while it lasted.
Last bit of treasure was Snobbery with Violence. I’ve never read Marion Chesney/M. C. Beaton so this is a brand new adventure. I do like period pieces and haven’t read an Edwardian in ages. I am looking forward to this one.
I seem to have prattled on. Can’t help it – books bring that out in me!
Another Day. Not really a novel title when beginning a new – well – anything- I suppose; but there you have it.
Today I officially launch my new blog. I’ve been blogging on and off for a while now, although truth be told, it has mostly been ‘off ‘ rather than ‘on’. I think it is because my prior blogs were launched with a very specific purpose – to promote my online shop(s). All well and good admittedly, but I would inevitably end up flailing about trying to find a fresh take on the very same topic. The blogs would last for a bit and then just wither due to everyone’s, (myself included), general lack of interest.
Sometime after that, I decided to redesign the last promotional blog into an actual website that sold my designs and an included blog area, snazzy designs, optional layouts, e-commerce etal. I attempted to launch this concept during my short lived, but much loved, one-woman-operation brick and mortar shop. Yeah. Not one of my more realistic ideas.
After abandoning my attempt at building my own site, I reduced the remains to just the blog. It worked until it didn’t. I deleted the site. A wonderful feeling letting go of the past, but on the other hand, I missed having a blog. The truth is, I just like to write. and Read. and be a part (albeit a very small part) of this great community.