Saturday, 12 May 2012

Books, books, and more books

A Migraine Comment

I had I migraine overnight – the second since the day I arrived here in Devon when I had a bad one – possibly caused by the travelling. The first one was almost certainly caused by lack of sleep due to other health issues. I know my neurologist would laugh at me but I find it rather interesting that last night I had left both my copper bangles off after having a bath.  Co-incidence?  I shall have to leave them off occasionally because they turn my wrist green - we shall see how many more times this ‘coincidence’ happen

‘The Shadow of the Wind’

One of the great things about being on holiday is having the chance to read, read and then do some more reading.  So far I have read two books belonging to Daughter-who-takes photos that she recommended – ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue (which I mentioned the other day) and ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  This latter was so good I had to nip into town and buy my own copy from the second-hand bookstall.  (Oh, sorry, Trades’ Descriptions Act – we’re not allowed to say anything is ‘second-hand’ any more – the term is ‘pre-owned’.)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964 and his love for the city comes across in this book.  The main action of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ takes place in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.  Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. Who could resist a book which begins in such a place? To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out 'La Sombra del Viento' (The Shadow of the Wind) by Julian Carax.  But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find.  A novel of life and death in Franco's Spain, a passionate love story and a thrilling mystery.  There are friendship and enmity, humour and tragedy in its pages. I thoroughly recommend it.

My edition of 'La Sombra del Viento' was translated by Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves, and her background is apparent is her beautiful poetic prose.  I think translators are often ignored but it is they who make the author’s prose live in another language.

‘The Gnole’

I’ve also re-read a book I pinched from the honeymooners’ bookshelves – ‘The Gnole’ by Alan Aldridge et al. I read this some years ago (in fact I can tell by the odd pencil mark that this was once my copy) but I had forgotten enough of it for it to be enjoyable second time around.  It is sort of sub-titled ‘The Ecology movement never had a mascot until now’. And this, for those of you who don’t know, is a Gnole –

A short, furry, thickset, bipedal creature, tail-less, with strong fore-arms and crouched gait. This is one Gnole in particular – Fungle.  His magic ‘made him uncomfortable uneasy and all kinds of other un-words’.   A mild creature he recalls his father’s advice – ‘Never was a situation made worse by the introduction o’ manners’. He lives in the Smoky Mountains, hidden away from Man, but becomes so disturbed by the encroachment of human-kind on the wilds that he heads for Manhattan on a bold quest to save the planet.

‘The Map of Time’

Jo gave me some book tokens that she had stored away for a rainy day and I wandered around Waterstones picking at the shelves and thoroughly enjoying myself. One of those which made its way ‘home’ with me and which I am now reading is ‘The Map of Time’ (2011) by Félix J Palma.

Privileged Andrew Harrington is a despondent young man who plans on killing himself. Eight years earlier, he had found the love of his life, a prostitute in London’s seedy Whitechapel section. After much internal struggling he determined to declare his love for her and live happily ever after, even if it meant leaving his privileged life behind. But everything changed when his beloved Marie Kelly became the victim of the villainous Jack the Ripper.  That’s where H.G. Wells and fantasy come in. The publication of his novel, ‘The Time Machine’, has resulted in a company called Murray’s Time Travel that offers trips through time. Andrew’s cousin Charles is certain that Andrew can be saved from despair by travelling back in time to stop Jack the Ripper from killing Marie Kelly...

‘Discovering Exeter’

And finally, at a charity shop, I came across a book ‘Discovering Exeter 10 – Public Inscriptions’ which has led me down some old alleyways and past ancient walls and shown me some public art I hadn’t seen before. 

And more Discovering Exeter

And discovering/ re-discovering Exeter is what I have been doing on three of the days I have been here.  I must get around to downloading and editing my photos.  

 So far I have just played with a few photos of the gargoyles to be found on Exeter cathedral.  I find it amusing that so many people visit the cathedral and never notice a single gargoyle staring down and laughing at them.

Sadly this one has totally worn away. 

Others have been restored like this cat with a pipe in its mouth.

 and the fox that has caught a duck.

 The one on the right has been restored and no doubt the cathedral's excellent pair of stonemasons will get around to faithfully rebuilding the other two.

Don't you just love medieval gargoyles?

This one is a bit more recent and is said to represent a one-time senior member of the Exeter clergy. 

Being on holiday

Even though I am on holiday I have a long list of things I want to do.  But there’s the difference – they are things I want to do not things I have to do.  And among other things there are a Grand Prix and it is the last day of the Premier League Football Season.  Oh, envy me you workers or you who are at home – I’m having a great time!

I hope you have as good a weekend as I plan to have.


  1. I'll be saving this post for my summer reading - I love to have such recommendations as these. Thanks!
    I hope you aren't visited by any more migraines this weekend.

  2. I think that, sometimes, we know our body well enough and are attentive to see what the differences are - whether they make sense to the Doctor's or not. They aren't living inside of our body and can't feel what we do - they have a mind for the scientific's of it keep paying attention.

    Like the look of that gnole. Makes me curious.

    And...the gargoyles...I had to get Sammy in here to look them over with me. I knew he'd appreciate them like I did.

  3. That's a fabulous collection of gargoyles!
    I read The Shadow of the Wind some years ago (listened to it in Swedish, I think).

  4. So sorry to hear about the migraines. I hope things have improved.

    The migraines were my measuring stick for what colour to paint a room -- how would I like this colour if I had a migraine? Some colours -- deep reds, etc. -- I knew I could never face on a wall if I had a migraine.

    Now that's a colour choice theory I don't think I've ever found in any decorating book!!

    Take care and God bless, Carol

    1. Once upon a time when working at the hospital I was sent to listen to a lecture on colours for interior decoration in hospital environment. Where you want a calm atmosphere, blue and green are usually recommended. Red has a stimulating effect. Yellow is a colour to be a bit cautious with since it may increase nausea. Orange on the other hand is supposed to help raise the appetite. There's a whole science behind it. ;)

    2. That sounds well worth investigating for when I next decorate. Some of the colour effects are, I suppose, fairly obviousw, like red being stimulating and blue relaxing but it had never occurred to me yellow might increase nausea or orangwe srtimulate appetite.

  5. What an entertaining and interesting post, John - and that in spite of your migraines, I am truly amazed at how you do it!

    "Shadow of the Wind" is indeed an excellent book. My sister recommended (and lent) it to me after she had read it. She's been to Barcelona a few times and loved the book.

    Gargoyles - I, too, find it hard to believe people don't notice them. I don't always take extra pictures of them, but they certainly are an intriguing part of any building.

    1. I not only got lots of gargoyle pictures but I've got lots of doors as well and thought of you as I was taking them! They'll be on a future post.

    2. I am looking forward to that!

  6. I love the gargoyle photos, especially the first one.
    I came across this comic and I think you'll like it :)

    1. Love it! Thanks Jedediah. That's one for my Facebook page.

  7. The Shadow of the Wind has been sitting in my to be read pile for ages. It might just have moved up a book or two!

    I love the Gnole! A sort of kindly gargoyle with a body. I've photographed lots of those gargoyles but it's good to see them on the blog because it's not the sort of thing one just goes and looks at in the image libraries.

    1. Hi Geeb, I've decided my labelling of photos is totally inadequate. I've photograohed all those before - some of tghem with you, nop doubt - but there's no picture labelled 'gargoyle' on my computer. 'Must do better' as the teacher said. Do you fancy going through my photos for me and renaming them to include the subject matter?

  8. Such intriguing shots. I love them. It would be so hard to know what to photograph first.

  9. get a head massager, it works.

  10. I just read this. Please remember to wear your bangles. No MEDS, JUST JEWELRY, Remember! :-)

  11. Glad you are having a good time John. I always think those Gargoyles look quite sinister. Sorry about the migraines, not at all nice. Hope the rest of your holiday can be enjoyed without them.


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