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Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, and London: Shakespeare, Hogwarts, and Shopping

Shakespeare's Gardens - Andrew Lawson, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Jackie Bennett Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Tara Hamling, Delia Garratt Hamlet: Globe to Globe - Dominic Dromgoole Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries - Antony Sher The Lives of Tudor Women - Elizabeth Norton The Gap of Time - Jeanette Winterson Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler And Furthermore - Judi Dench Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari The Wrong Side of Goodbye - Michael Connelly

Stratford

 

A Scene at the RSC Book and Gift Shop

 

The date: June 17, 2017. The time: Approximately 10:00AM.

 

TA and friend enter; TA asks for a shopping basket and makes straight for the shelves and display cases. An indeterminate amount of time is then spent browsing. Whenever her friend points out something and asks "Did you see this?", TA silently points to the steadily growing contents of her basket.  Finally, with a sigh, TA makes for the cashier.

 

Shop assistant: I can see why you asked for a basket when you came in ... So, do you come here often?

 

TA: I try to make it every 2 or 3 years.  [With a sheepish grin:]  And yes, my shopping basket does look like that pretty much every single time, I'm afraid.

 

TA's friend: I can confirm that ...

 

TA: Yeah, she's seen my library at home.

 

TA's friend: Err, I can confirm the shopping sprees as well.

 

Shop assistant (ringing up and bagging one item after another): Well, enjoy your, um, reading ...!

 

Similar scenes, albeit minus the above dialogue were repeated at two of the book & gift stores of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Henley Street (WS birthplace) and Hall's Croft (home of his daughter Judith and her husband, Dr. John Hall, a physician) -- where we actually did spend a fair amount of time talking to the museum assistants, too, though, about everything from visiting Shakekspearean sites to Wimbledon tennis.

 

That being said, we "of course" paid our (well, my) hommage to the Bard, from Trinity Church to the two above-mentioned Shakespeare family houses (return visits all to me, though Hall's Croft was new to my friend), and just as importantly, we had tickets for two of the current "Roman plays" season productions:

 

(1) Antony & Cleopatra, starring Josette Simon and Anthony Byrne in the title roles, with Andrew Woodall as Enobarbus:  One of the best productions of this particular play that I've ever seen.  Josette Simon alone was worth the price of admission ten times over, plus she and Byrne played off each other magnificently, and Andrew Woodall was unlike any Enobarbus I'd seen before, wonderfully highlighting the ironic subtext of his character's lines and giving him more than a hint of a laconic note.  If you're in England and anywhere near Stratford, run and get a ticket for this production ... or if you don't make it all the way to Warwickshire, try to catch it in London when they move the production there.

 

(2) Julius Caesar, starring Andrew Woodall as Caesar and James Corrigan as Marc Antony.  I liked this one, too -- how can any RSC production ever be bad?! -- but by far not as much as Antony and Cleopatra on the night before.  Woodall was a fine Caesar, even if actually a bit too like his Enobarbus (which I might not have found quite as obvious if I hadn't seen both plays practically back to back, on two consecutive nights), and the cast generally did a good job, but this was clearly a "look at all our up-and-coming-talent" sort of production, with almost all of the play's lead roles given to actors who were easily 5, if not 10 or more years younger than the parts they played, which didn't quite work for me -- these people are Roman senators and generals, for crying out loud, and for the most part the requisite gravitas simply wasn't there (yet); even if the talent clearly was.  What a contrast to the very age-appropriate and, as I said, just all around magnificent production of Antony and Cleopatra ... Still, I'm by no means sorry we went to see this, and it's obvious even now that we'll be seeing a lot more of these actors in years to come.

 

We also managed to snag last-minute tickets for a "behind the scenes" tour -- I'd done one in 2014 already, but was more than happy to repeat the experience!  Now I only wish our own opera and theatre company had half the resources that the RSC has at its disposal ...

 

    
Photos, from top left:

1. Shakespeare's bust, above his grave in Trinity Church

2. Shakespeare's epitaph, on his gravestone (photo from 2014, since I didn't get a really good one this time around. N.B., the photo is actually upside down, for somewhat greater ease of reading the inscription.)

3. Trinity Church -- the graves of Shakespeare and his family are located in the part to the left of the tower.

4. River Avon, with RSC Theatre and, in the background, the spire of Trinity Church

5. RSC Theatre

6. Shakespeare's Birthplace (Henley Street)

7.Shakespeare Birthplace Trust centre, next to the actual Henley Street Birthplace building

8. Hall's Croft, garden view

9.New Place and Guild Chapel (photo from 2014)

10. New Place gardens, looking towards RSC and Swan Theatres (also a photo from 2014 -- we didn't make it inside New Place this time around, though we did pass by there on our way from our B&B to the RSC theatre and to Henley Street and back).

 

Now, since Manuel Antao elsewhere insisted on "the full list" -- the grand total result of the above-mentioned shopping sprees, plus a brief supplementary foray into an airport W.H. Smith, was the following:

 

CDs:

* William Shakespeare: Antony & Cleopatra: Music and Speeches from the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Company Production

* William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar: Music and Speeches from the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Company Production

* William Shakespeare: King Lear: Music and Speeches from the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company Production -- which alas I had to miss, but it starred Antony Sher as Lear, whom I saw as Falstaff in 2014 ... which in turn was just about all the reason I needed to get the audio version of his Lear, too.

*  William Shakespeare: The Tempest: Music and Speeches from the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company Production -- which I also had to miss, but I figured even if I was a year late ... (plus, Simon Russell Beale as Prospero and directed -- like the 2016 Lear -- by Gregory Doran ...?!)

*  William Shakespeare: King Richard III, full cast audio recording starring Kenneth Branagh -- a long-time must-have from my TBR or, err, "to-be-listened-to" list.

The British Library, with Ben and David Crystal: Shakespeare's original pronunciation: Speeches and scenes performed as Shakespeare would have heard them -- there's a video version of this on Youtube (I think Lora posted about it here a while back), and if you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend remedying that sooner rather than later.  It gives you a whole new insight into Shakespeare's use of language ... down to lingusitic puns, allusions and images that you really only pick up on once you've heard what the Bard and his original audiences would have heard in the delivery of the respective lines.

 

Books: 

*  Jackie Bennett, with photographs by Andrew Lawson: Shakespeare's Gardens -- a lavishly illustrated coffee table book-sized guide to the gardens Shakespeare knew (or might have known) both in Stratford / Warwickshire and in London, as well as on the gardens of the five Shakespeare-related houses in and around Stratford, with an introductory chapter on Tudor gardening in general.  THE find of several great finds of this trip.  (And it's even an autographed copy ... as I only discovered when I unpacked the book back home!)

*  Roy Strong: The Quest for Shakespeare's Garden -- similar to the above (though smaller in format) and a great complementary book, with plenty of historical illustrations and leading up to a focus on the New Place garden, which has painstakingly been restored in period style in recent years.

*  Delia Garratt and Tara Hamling (eds.): Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust -- an illustrated guide to Shakespeare's life and times in the style of the recently-popular "so-and-so [insert topic] in 100 objects" books, with 50 representative objects covering the key aspects of Shakespeare's life from cradle to grave.

*  Peter Sillitoe & Maurice Hindle (ed.): Shakespearean London Theatres -- what the title says, but with a handy walking map allowing the aficionado to trace not merely the locations of the various theatres but also get a sense of the areas where they were located ... or at least, their respective modern incarnations.

*  Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (eds.), with contributions by, inter alia and in addition to the editors, Graham Holderness, Charles Nicholl, Andrew Hadfield and John Jowett, and an afterword by James Shapiro: Shakespeare Beyond Doubt -- a scholarly refutation of the various "alternate authorship" theories.

*  Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (eds.), with contributions by, inter alia and in addition to the editors, Michael Wood, Graham Holderness, Germaine Greer and Andrew Hadfield, and an afterword by Margaret Drabble: The Shakespeare Circle -- a collective biography of Shakespeare's family, friends, business associates and patrons; a bit like Stanley Wells's earlier Shakespeare & Co., but not merely focusing on the other key figures of Elizabethan theatre, and with individual chapters / essays designated to individual persons (or families), instead of the continuous narrative contained in Shakespeare & Co.

*  James Shapiro: 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear -- pretty much what the title implies; a follow-up to Shapiro's earlier focus on Shakespeare's life in 1599.

*  Frank Kermode: Shakespeare's Language -- also pretty much what the title says, with a joint examination of the pre-Globe plays' poetic and linguistic characteristics and a play-by-play examination of the last 16 plays, beginning with Julius Caesar.

*  Dominic Dromgoole: Hamlet: Globe to Globe -- the Globe Theatre Artistic Director's account of their recent, 2-year-long venture of taking a production of Hamlet to (literally) every single country in the world.

*  Antony Sher: Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries -- a must-read for anyone who's been fortunate enough to see the RSC's 2014 productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and still a rioting good read if you haven't.  Plus, the most amazing sketches by Sher himself ... the man is an artist several times over!

*  Antony Sher & Gregory Doran: Woza Shakespeare! Titus Andronicus in South Africa -- not new, but it's been on my TBR for a while and I figured while I was at it ...

*  Sheridan Morley: John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography -- comment unnecessary.

* Jonathan Croall, with a prologue by Simon Callow: Gielgoodies! The Wit and Wisdom [& Gaffes] of John Gielgud -- a frequently hilarious complementary read to the above bio.

*  Harriet Walter: Brutus and Other Heroines: Playing Shakespeare's Roles for Women -- plus, I might add, plenty of insight into Shakespearean theatre in particular and acting in general.

*  Harriet Walter: Other People's Shoes: Thoughts on Acting -- as the title implies, more of the above, though minus the near-exclusive focus on Shakespeare. (Instead, however, also a professional autobiography of sorts.)

*  Judi Dench: And Furthermore -- her memoirs.  Very much looking forward to this one.

*  Jeanette Winterson: The Gap of Time -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Winter's Tale.

*  Anne Tyler: Vinegar Girl -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Taming of the Shrew.

* Howard Jacobson: Shylock Is My Name -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Merchant of Venice. (I could have gone on and gotten more of those, but I figured I'd limit myself to three to begin with ... :) )

*  Ian Doescher: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope -- I know, I know.  Everybody but me has already read it at this point.

*  Elizabeth Norton: The Lives of Tudor Women -- a(nother) proximate choice, since I've spent so much time in their world (and that of their Plantagenet sisters / ancestors) recently, thanks in no small part to Samantha [Carpe Librum]!

*  Robert Harris: Imperium -- Cicero trilogy, book 1.  And yes, there is a Shakespeare connection even here ... think " 'twas all Greek to me."  (Also, as was to be expected, the RSC bookstore had Harris's complete Roman series on their shelves as companion reads (of sorts) to their current Roman  plays season.)

*  Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind -- no Shakespeare connection here; unless Harari should be (justly) citing to Shakespeare as an exponent of human genius, that is.  Anyway, this is where the airport W.H. Smith came in handy.

*  Michael Connelly: The Wrong Side of Goodbye -- see Harari above! :)

 

Plus a blue RSC silk scarf, a Macbeth quote T-shirt (can't have too much of the Scottish play, ever), a First Folio canvas bag (had to get something to carry all my new treasures home in, after all), a couple of Shakespeare- and Tudor-related postcards, and of course a few more Shakespeare quote mugs and refrigerator magnets for my respective collections.

 

Oxford

On the way from London to Stratford, we'd stopped by in Oxford: This being merely an extended weekend trip, we didn't have a lot of time, but since our last attempt to visit this half of Oxbridge had literally been drowned by floods of torrential rain (so we ended up spending virtually all the time in the Museum of Natural History), I'd promised my friend a short visit at least -- all the more since I myself had actually spent a few days in Oxford in the interim with my mom. Well, with the weather cooperating this time around, we at least managed a stroll along Broad Street and down Catte Street to Radcliffe Square, then past St. Mary's Church to "the High," a brief climb up Carfax Tower, and finally a visit to Hogwarts, err, Christchurch College (Tom Quad, Chapel, Great Hall and all).

 

 



Photos, from top left:

1. View from Radcliffe Square down Catte St.: Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library to the left; Hereford College to the right.

2. View from Carfax Tower towards St. Mary's Church, Radcliffe Camera, Hereford College, Magdalen College, and New College.

3. / 4.: Christchurch College: Tom Quad with Tom Tower (left photo) and Chapel and Great Hall (right photo).

5.: Christchurch College, Chapel.

6.: Christchurch College, Great Hall.

 

(We had, incidentally, also been planning for a stop in Cambridge on the return trip from Stratford, but that had to be cancelled ... which is a story for another day.  Also, this will now obviously necessitate yet another joint trip to England at some point or other!)

 

 

London

London, where we actually started our trip, was the first scheduled "shopping spree" stop: Since we've both visited London repeatedly before, no mad bouts of "mandatory" sightseeing were included; rather, merely being there tends to make both of us pretty happy campers in and of itself.  Since we've also more or less worked out a route covering the stores that we tend to hit on a routine basis whenever we're visiting, it took us all but five hours to complete our program, from Neal's Yard Remedies (at the original Neal's Yard location in Seven Dials) all the way to Fortnum & Mason's, with various other stops thrown in on the way, chiefly among those, Whittard of Chelsea and, this time around, Crabtree & Evelyn (which we actually do have in Germany, too, but the London branches had those irresistible sales ... (sigh)).  Since I knew I was going to spend a lot of money buying books in Stratford, I decided -- with a somewhat heavy heart -- to forego my usual Charing Cross Road stops on this occasion; though towards the end of the aforementioned five hours (1) my left knee started to give me serious trouble, and (2) we were already laden with our other purchases to such an extent that even I had to admit there would have been no way we'd be able to carry back books to our hotel on top, so I was grudgingly reconciled ... though only for the moment, and with the effect of instantly resolving to return to England sooner rather than later; a resolution that has since blossomed in fully-blown plans for a longer (and solo) follow-up trip, from the England / Wales border all the way to the Norfolk coast -- and in addition to plenty of sightseeing, I've also promised myself plenty of book store stops along the way.

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Ummm ...

... well, yeah.

 

Something of the sort, I guess.

 

So anyway, I'd decided to set out on my own in business at the beginning of this year and things were moving along nicely and as planned (lots to do, but nothing truly unforeseen), when precisely in the matter that is allowing me to finally do my own thing in the first place, and which has already been eating up the major part of my work time even at ordinary times for the past few years, the tribunal hearing the matter in question decided to do a short-notice-180-degree switch flip on the ground rules for the evidentiary hearing (aka trial) in early June that we'd been preparing for, and then in short order, evidently not satisfied with already having us do double overtime to adapt to the new and completely reversed ground rules, decided to do a backwards 180-degree switch flip at even shorter notice, making everybody and everything run full circle and now making us all do triple overtime.  So, at some point in late January (when the first switch flip occurred) I found myself reduced to curtailing all non-work-related activities ... even reading, believe it or not.  The only thing that kept me sane during the almost six months from then 'till now was a regular diet of audio recordings of some of my favorite comfort reads, chiefly ingested on the way to and from meetings, with Tolkien and Golden Age mysteries making up the stock of said literary diet; as well as the decision to reward myself with a London and Stratford-upon-Avon shopping trip as soon as the June hearing was over. (Separate post on that trip to come.)  Oh, and a certain amount of frustration purchases from my book wishlist ... not that I've touched even one of these shiny newly-ordered books so far, but somehow even receiving, unpacking and adding them to my physical TBR pile made my life feel better, if only for a few brief moments.

 

In addition to all of which, I let myself get talked into adopting one of our local animal shelter's "experienced owners only" special needs cats -- goes to show what happens if, in dire need of cuddly creatures and kitty love, you innocently inquire about a pair of kittens that have, alas, been decided to go to other new parents in the interim.  He's extremely bright, but has evidently grown up as a stray, is totally unused to (and distrustful of) humans -- hair trigger default communication mode: monster hiss and razor-sharp claws ... so much for the "cuddly creatures and kitty love" thing -- and has been diagnosed as FIV positive to boot (though the virus is expected to remain dormant for years to come, and lke most HIV positive humans, he will probably die of a secondary illness eventually). It was quite a while until he was finally ready to come home with me, and for the moment he's taken up residence under my bed, so right now I only have photos of him taken while he was still at the shelter, but anyway, here's my beautiful and special new four-pawed boy:

 

 

 

 

They named him Horst at the shelter, which is empahtically not a name I would have chosen myself ... for him or any other cat, period.  I'm taking my time coming up with a new name, though -- for the time being, he's simply my Miezekater (literally: "pussy tomcat" or "male pussycat" ... I swear, it sounds decidedly less ridiculous in German than it does in English), a pet name that he has started to respond to and seems to like.

 

Incidentally, during my self-enforced absence I finally bit the bullet and created a rudimentary Twitter presence ... haven't tweeted a single time myself, yet, but in default of enough time to indulge in newspapers, the major news organizations' headline feed at least made sure I didn't completely fall off the planet as far as awareness of major goings-on was concerned.  And I figured that while I was there, I might as well follow those of you whose Twitter IDs the software recognized and actually suggested me to follow ... if I've missed anyone, or if you would like to follow back, my Twitter ID is (you'd never have guessed this) @ThemisAthena (https://twitter.com/ThemisAthena).

 

Well, in any event, I'm very happy that this site and this community is still around and here to come back to!  Not necessarily a given, after last year's woes ...

 

Glad to be back, and I hope you're all doing well!!!

 

Merken

Merken

Merken

The Reading Habits Tag

Yey -- another book tag bandwaggon to jump onto!  Thanks to Spooky's House of Books for starting this and to BookLikes for spreading the idea.  (Also yey for the return of BookLikes community posts!)

 

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?

 

Yes -- my bed and my living room couch.

 

 

 

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

 

Well ... I like bookmarks and I've been known to buy them if I find particularly nice ones (e.g., in museum gift shops) -- and I even went so far as to setting aside my bought special souvenir bookmarks for my Halloween Bingo and 12 Tasks of the Festive Season reads.

 

 

Then again, I've lost countless beautiful bookmarks over the course of a long reading life, and I actually do miss some of them.  So I have a huge assorted stack consisting of everything from postcards and greeting cards, tickets (opera / concert / tourist venue / train / you name it), boarding cards, purchase receipts, bookstore promotional bookmarks, and whatever else just happens to be on hand sitting on my bedside table next to my bed, right behind my alarm clock(s), and that's what I typically end up using ... including, incidentally, for my Halloween and Festive Season reads.

 

 

 

3. Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?

 

I almost always finish a chapter (or, in the case of very long chapters, a given section within a chapter) before I put my book down.  Or at least I try to do so ... unless I'm so tired my eyes are shutting all by themselves and there's just no point reading on.

 

 

4. Do you eat or drink while read?

 

When reading while lying on my living room couch, I usually have a mug of tea sitting next to me, and there may also be chocolate or sweets involved.  When reading while lying in bed, no food or drink -- the reason being 8 times out of 10 that I'm reading immediately before going to sleep.

 

 

5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?

 

Well, unlike MbD I can't claim a plane crash has actually happened near my house while I was reading (wow, that's some story!), but I, too, tend to be totally oblivious to my surroundings while immersed in a book -- from when I was little, my mom always said that you could drop a bomb next to me while I was reading and I wouldn't take any notice of it whatsoever.

 

That said, if driving on a familiar road or on the freeway (i.e., in situations where I don't have to actually focus very hard on navigating unfamiliar terrain), I can listen to audiobooks while driving; and I don't mind music playing in the background while I'm reading, either (as long as it's of a sufficiently soothing variety and playing softly enough).

 

But TV is a total and complete no-no, and trying to actually talk to me or get my attention for anything outside my book while I'm reading is, likewise, an enterprise doomed to utter failure.

 

 

6. One book at a time or several at once?

 

I used to be a "one book at a time" sort of person, but audiobooks and, oddly (or perhaps not) the Halloween Bingo and Festive Season reads have changed that -- lately, it's typically been at least several audiobooks to one print book, or in some instances even several print books simultaneously.

 

 

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

 

At home, mostly -- though I do think they ought to include a plane or train trip (of whatever length) without a book at hand in the U.N. Anti-Torture Convention.  And I do know what I'm talking about ... I used to have motion sickness as a kid and therefore was unable to read while traveling.  Pure torture, I can tell you.  (To the adults present on the occasion as well.  "Are we there yet???" doesn't begin to describe it.)

 

 

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

 

Sing along with me: "It's in your head -- in your head ..."

 

 

 

9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

 

I've been known to read ahead on occasion (if for no other reason, to determine whether a given book merits my sticking with it or if I might just as well DNF), but there's no skipping of pages.  Skimming, yes.  Skipping, no.

 

 

10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new?

 

Keeping it like new to the best of my ability ... which, however, with paperbacks (especially mass market paperbacks) isn't always easy, or even achievable.

 

 

Do you write in your books?

 

No (shudders).  Well, unless it's a texbook -- those are meant to be annotated.  But other than that, I don't annotate my own books, and one of the reasons I hardly ever buy used books declared as being in "good" or "acceptable" condition is that with those descriptions you must be prepared to receive a book that someone has marked or written in ... which I simply am not willing to receive.

 

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Bonus Entry

Der Weltensammler - Ilija Trojanow Collector of Worlds, the - Ilija Trojanow

I blacked out my card on Dec. 19 using the "activity" entry for the Kwanzaa square, but since thereafter I did read a book set (partially) in Africa, too, here's my "bonus entry" post ... sorry for reporting in belatedly; blame it on BookLikes posting issues and a surfeit of things going on all at the same time in my life at present. :(

 

Not that it still seems to matter greatly to begin with, alas ... (sigh).

 

Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) is a novelized biography of 19th century polymath and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, who traveled widely in India, the Middle East and Africa, visiting Mecca (disguised as an Arab) and seeking -- partially successfully, though he didn't know it -- the source of the Nile (he did make it to Lake Victoria, but failed to confirm that the Nile actually does originate from there).  He is best remembered today for his translation of The 1001 Nights.

 

Interesting, though quite obviously largely fictitious insights into a fascinating life, and a voyage back through time to the Orient, Africa, and British Empire of the 19th century.

 

Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

Merken

Happy New Year!

Holly: July 2000 -- December 27, 2016

 

My baby's kidneys had been ailing for the past year, and they finally failed her over Christmas.  She bravely fought a losing battle, and I will never forget her love of her humans which she conveyed to us until her very last breath.  We took her to the vet this afternoon -- she is now resting in our building's ample garden, very near the spot where we already buried Gypsy and Tiger.  I want to believe that they are reunited in a happy place.

 

Apologies for not having been around lately (nor will I likely be in the next couple of days).  I am crying as I type this, and as is so often the case, one major event follows on the heels of another -- more on the other things going on in my life later, at a more convenient moment.

 

I hope everybody else had a Merry Christmas -- and a Happy New Year to one and all, in case it should take me until next year to resurface here.

 

Lots of love to one and all!

So, since I went book gift shopping for my friend anyway ...

... and because my TBR clearly still has room for expansion ...

 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Grand Finale and BLACKOUT!

Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett Babettes Fest: Erzählung - Tania Blixen Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald Das inoffizielle Harry-Potter-Kochbuch - Dinah Bucholz

Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

 

I intend to also read a book for the Kwanzaa square and try to get as many of my as-yet missing activities done (Holiday Down Under, Movie Ticket, and Holiday Party), but since completing either activities or reads qualifies for completing a square, as far as the game itself is concerned here's hooray for blacking out my card!

 

Thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting yet another great game -- I had great fun with this one, never mind the hosting site's performance issues.  (I only wish those woes were over once and for all.)  As with the bingo, I enjoyed following everybody else' updates and comparing notes at least as much as completing my own card.

 

So, here's for the grand finale:

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

 

- Read a book set in one of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and/or Denmark), where winter nights are long!

 

Inspired by Lillelara's advice to Olga Godim, I changed plans on this one and revisited Babette's Feast, Tania (Karen) Blixen's love letter to the culinary arts, set against the bleak background of (mostly) midwinter in a Pietist religious community in a remote Norwegian fjord.  It's an apt read not only for this square but also for the season, as the feast is Babette's selfless gift to the two women who, suspicion against "papists" notwithstanding, have taken her into their home after she had lost her own.  I'd read it for the first time after having seen the movie, with the sumptuous visuals of the feast (as contrasted by the dour setting of the protagonists' lives) still freshly in my mind, and I loved it even better then; but I'm still happy I decided to reread it ... and few can hold a candle to Blixen's gift of setting the atmosphere of a story.

 

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

- Read a book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

 

This task truly came in handy, as my birthday fell smack into the Halloween Bingo and I therefore haven't made particularly great inroads with the many treasures I'd accumulated back in October.

 

So, always eager to find out what's going on in the life of one DI (has-been) John Rebus of Police Scotland, I picked Ian Rankin's Even Dogs in the Wild, which I absolutely loved ... until it dawned on me that

the back story of (and solution to) this entry in the series is VERY similar to that of Dead Souls, which happens to be one of my favorite Rebus books and which I therefore know inside and out.  (And Rankin has also used the method of disposing of a dead body referenced at the beginning of this book before ... not to mention bent cops, who more often than not seem to hail from Glasgow instead of Edinburgh.)

(show spoiler)

  Bit of a bummer, that, and it knocked the book straight down from a five- to a four star read.  Still, I loved the fact that part of the book was told from the perspective of "Big Ger" Cafferty, Rebus is as crotchety and unyielding a lonely wolf as ever, and I'm glad to see that Siobhan finally seems to be coming into her own well and truly, without finding it necessary to cling to anybody's coat tails (particularly not those of her boss, DCI James Page).  What with Darryll Christie resurfacing in a prominent role and the Glasgow underworld in play big time as well, I wonder if we're headed for another gangland showdown along the likes of The Hanging Garden in one of the next books ...?  Now wouldn't that be a treat.  Also, is Rankin unsure where next to take Malcolm Fox -- or why is Fox virtually surplus to requirements at the beginning of the book and wondering whether he should throw in his towel?

 

 

- Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

 

My best friend's birthday is on December 16, as a result of which I only get to go gift shopping for her in a major way once every year, and I typically only decide later, when I'm back home, which items she's getting for Christmas and which ones for her birthday.  This year, I decided it would be the books and a few assorted other items for her birthday ... it'll be a bath tub caddy and a set of goodies from one of our favorite local food (or more specifically spice, condiments and sauces) stores for Christmas. -- The books are Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk and a cookbook based on the Harry Potter novels, which I hope she'll love (and doesn't own yet), being both an HP fan and a stellar and enthusiastic cook.

 

 

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

- Make a small donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

 

I made a donation to a charity that my mom and I have been supporting for a long time -- in fact, I remember my mom donating to them even when I was a small child: SOS Kinderdörfer (literally, "SOS Children's Villages"), an organization that  takes in and provides housing, schooling and, most importantly, a loving and supportive community, to orphans and children whose parents are too poor or otherwise unable to properly care for them, in different parts of the world.  If you make your donation online you can specify the project you want your money to go to, and I picked their project in South Sudan, which has been particularly beleagured of late: as a result of the war, they were forced to abandon their facilities, casting the future of the project, and the children and their carers themselves, into great peril.  They've only recently begun to slowly build towards a new home for their village and community.

 

(I've included links to their website, which however doesn't seem to have an English version, unfortunately, so if you want to learn more you'll have to copy and paste the contents into Google translator, I'm afraid.)

 

 

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket

 

- Read a book that has been adapted to a holiday movie.

 

It took me about three seconds to make up my mind about this one, and I never stopped to think twice -- this just had to be one of my all-time favorite stories, which also happens to have been adapted into one of my all-time favorite holiday movies, never mind that the final scene actually isn't even set at Christmas in the book: Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy, whose screen adaptation starring Ricky Schroder and Alec Guinness has been an annual Christmas ritual on German TV for over 35 years now.  So call me a sop -- and I admit I've never actually tried revisiting this story at length outside the Christmas season (I might well find it a bit too tug-at-your-heartstrings-sentimental then -- but as a feel good story about love, redemption, and the meaning (and effect) of unselfish generosity, this one is hard to beat ... golden-haired cherub, saintly mother and friends to steal horses with all included.

 

 

And here's my tally of completed reads and activities:

 

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

- Read: A book that is set in a snowy place.

=> Dylan Thomas - A Child's Christmas in Wales (audio version, read by the author himself)

- Activity: Take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.

=> A Visit to Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

- Read: A book set in one of the Nordic countries.

=> Tania (Karen) Blixen: Babette's Feast (see above)

- Activity: Hygge: Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook.

=> Hygge!

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

- Read: A book where a celebration is a big part of the action.

=> Rex Stout: And Four to Go

- Activity: Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on Booklikes.

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

- Read: A book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

=> Ian Rankin: Even Dogs in the Wild (see above).

- Activity: Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

=> Book gift, see above.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

- Read: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.

- Activity: Make a donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

=> SOS Kinderdörfer, South Sudan project (see above).

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

- Read: Let the dreidel choose a book for you

=> Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

- Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes.

=> Latkes (Kartoffelpuffer / Reibekuchen), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

- Read: A book set during the Christmas holiday season.

=> Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas

- Activity: Set up a

=> Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

- Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie:

=> Frances Hodgson Burnett - Little Lord Fauntleroy (see above)

- Activity: Go see a new theater release this holiday season (this does not have to be a holiday movie).

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year:

- Read: (A coming of age novel or) any old favorite comfort read:

=> Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (audio version performed by Patrick Stewart)

- Activity: Post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or youth.
=> Task the Ninth, Part 2

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

- Read: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author.

=> Kerry Greenwood: Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

- Activity: Buy some Christmas crackers (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures.

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

- Read: A book that involves train travel.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

- Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you'd like to share.
=> Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl:

- Reading: A book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods.

=> Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave

- Activity: Drink a festive, holiday beverage; take a picture of your drink, and post it to share - make it as festive as possible.
=> Mulled wine (Glühwein), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

 

 

 

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BookRiot: Cracking the Names Behind A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Most of us have grown up with Scrooge’s Christmas Eve escapades. We know the plot, the catch phrases, the every “bah, humbugs!” like the back of our hands. The names Ebenezer, Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit are now as deeply familiar to us as Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty. We know it all. Or do we? What is it about those Victorian names that haunt our yuletide imagination? What are they hiding about the characters we re-invite into our homes every year? And what, moreover, do they say about Dickens’ supposedly simple tale that may not be so simple after all?

BookRiot: Happy 200th Birthday, The Nutcracker!

The Nutcracker - E.T.A. Hoffmann, Maurice Sendak, Ralph Manheim

At this time each year, thousands of little Claras across the world pull their Victorian nightgowns over their heads, lace up their toe shoes, and prepare to take their place on stage in one of the most coveted roles for an aspiring ballet dancer. But the history of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet goes beyond twirling Sugar Plum Fairies and pirouetting Rat Kings.

The character we’ve come to know as Clara originally appeared in a story written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816, by the name Marie Stahlbaum. At a holiday party thirty-odd years later, the legendary Alexandre Dumas told his own version of Marie’s surreal fever dream at a party after being tied to a chair by some of his daughter’s friends who demanded they be told a story. The resulting version of Hoffman’s fairy tale was less dark and more suited to a young audience. That was the version that Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky adapted nearly 50 years later for a performance at the Russian Imperial Theatre.

The original performance sold out on opening night (December 18, 1892) and a holiday season has not since passed without a curtain rising on a gorgeous Christmas tree, in the midst of being decorated by the Stahlbaum family and their friends.

 

Happy 200th Birthday, The Nutcracker!:

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the First: The Winter Wonderland; and Task the Seventh: The Christmas

Dylan Thomas Reads a Child's Christmas in Wales and Five Poems/Cd - Dylan Thomas The Nightingale Before Christmas (Meg Langslow Mysteries) - Donna Andrews

Task the First:
– Read a book that is set in a snowy place.

 

Dylan Thomas: A Child's Christmas in Wales

 

Thomas's lyrical memoirs of his childhood Christmas experience, read by himself ... truly magical.  One of the books (or CDs) that I revisit every single holiday season.

 

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Task the Seventh:
– Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season. 

 

Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas

 

The year before last's entry in Donna Andrews's Meg Lanslow series: An uninhabited  Caerphilly house has been turned into a show house for the local interior designers' pre-Christmas competition, which Meg has agreed to organize (her own mother being one of the contestants, and Meg's involvement as an organizer having been the price for their own house not to be used as the scene of competition) -- as a result of which Meg is having to constantly mediate between the contestants, who keep going at each others' throats hammer and tongs and are, as a whole, more unruly than a bag of wriggling kittens.  It doesn't particularly help, either, that there's a student hanging around the place doing research for an article on the competition that she's writing for the local university newspaper, that moreover, packages containing the contestants' orders of items needed in their decorative arrangements keep disappearing, and that at last someone even takes to vandalizing the house and some of the half-arranged rooms, with merely a few days to go to Christmas (and to the advent of the judges).  When the most unpopular of the contestants -- whom the others also hold responsible for the disappearance of their packages and for the vandalization of their rooms -- is found murdered, there doesn't seem a shortage of suspects ... except that every single one of the other designers seems to have a credible alibi.

 

A more than solid, tremendously enjoyable entry in the series ... having read Duck the Halls just before Christmas last year, I'm seriously tempted to hunt down all of Andrews's holiday books and read them, one at a time, before Christmas each year!  She truly has a knack for combining a hilarious storyline with fully-rounded characters (however unusual), a homely and comfortably-feeling small-town setting and a lot of warmth, humor, and common sense.  Highly recommended!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Task the Seventh:
– Grab your camera and set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat. Post it for everyone to enjoy!

 

Well, the cat preferred to watch the setup from atop the half-empty box of Christmas decorations instead of being part of the picture, but anyway ... here we go!  (And yes, that's a real candle again. :) )

 


 

 

 

 

Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

Bloglovin'

Connecting my BookLikes account as well, just for good measure.

Flavorwire: Bookish Getaways for Lit Lovers

As we enter the heart of winter, some of us are already dreaming up ways to escape the chill and vacation somewhere cozy with a good book. Taking that sentiment to the extreme, we’ve collected several bookish getaway spots to plan your next trip. From a hostel where you can sleep in a bookcase, to an immersive world worthy of a Dickens’ novel, here are some of the best book-inspired vacations.

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- At the Halfway Point

 Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

 

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

- Reading: A book that is set in a snowy place.

- Activity: Take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.
=> A Visit to Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

- Reading: A book set in one of the Nordic countries.

- Activity: Hygge: Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want.
=> Hygge!

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

- Reading: A book where a celebration is a big part of the action.
=> Rex Stout: And Four to Go

- Activity: Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on Booklikes.

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

- Reading: A book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.

- Activity: Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

- Reading: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.

- Activity: Make a donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

- Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you.

   נ  Nun (miracle): Christopher Paolini - Eldest (audio version read by Kerry Shale)

   ג Gimel (great): Arthur Conan Doyle - The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

   ה He (happened): Ian Rankin - Even Dogs in the Wild

   ש Shin (there, i.e. Israel): J.R.R. Tolkien - Letters From Father Christmas
=>
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear
(audio version read by Simon Vance)

- Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out.
=> Latkes (Kartoffelpuffer / Reibekuchen), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

- Reading: A book set during the Christmas holiday season.

- Activity: Set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

- Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie.

- Activity: Go see a new theater release this holiday season (this does not have to be a holiday movie).

 

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year:

- Reading: (A coming of age novel or) any old favorite comfort read
=> Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (audio version performed by Patrick Stewart)

- Activity: Post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or youth.
=> Task the Ninth, Part 2

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

- Reading: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author (or a book you would consider a "beach read").
=> Kerry Greenwood: Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

- Activity: Buy some Christmas crackers (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures.

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

- Reading: A book that involves train travel.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

- Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you'd like to share.
=> Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl:

- Reading: A book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods.
=> Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave

- Activity: Drink a festive, holiday beverage; take a picture of your drink, and post it to share - make it as festive as possible.
=> Mulled wine (Glühwein), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

 

 

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- A Visit to the Christmas Market

... aka Tasks the First, the Sixth, and the Twelfth: The Winter Wonderland, the Hanukkah, and the Wassail Bowl.

 

- If you are lucky enough to live in a snowy place, or even if you aren't, take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.

- Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out!

- Drink a festive, holiday beverage, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Take a picture of your drink, and post it to share - make it as festive as possible!

 



No snow anywhere in sight where I live (and as every year, we're dreaming of a white Christmas without, however, much hope for there actually to be one), but yesterday being the first Sunday of Advent, I decided to at least pay a visit to one of our area's many Christmas markets.  For preference, I'd have made it either the one in Bonn or the medieval Christmas market they annually have in another town nearby, but as I also had things to do at the office, it ended up being Cologne's main Christmas market right next to the cathedral (our offices are a 5 minutes' walk from there).

 







 

And since both latkes (Kartoffelpuffer / Reibekuchen, or in the local dialect, "Riefkooche") and mulled wine (Glühwein) are a fixture on every German Christmas market, yesterday's visit provided for those as well -- alright, not homemade admittedly, but I decided I'm going to let the Christmas market tradition stand in for "homemade" here instead ... and, in the instance of the latkes, also celebrate the cross-cultural / cross-religious spirit.  Oh, and I did get to take home my pretty, colorful mulled wine mug, too!

 

 


 

 

 

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year

A Christmas Carol (Audiocd) - Patrick Stewart, Charles Dickens

- Every year you get a little bit older! Read a coming of age novel or any old favorite comfort read to start the new year right.

- If you're feeling brave, post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or misspent youth.

 

For Part 1 of this task I listened to the audio version one of my annual holiday reads, Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol, performed by Patrick Stewart.  I already reviewed it, and the TV adaptation starring Mr. Stewart as Scrooge, last year -- but it really can't be said often enough what a phantastic reading this is.  Nothing like RSC training, coupled with enormous acting sensibility and empathy for all the story's characters, for bringing this classic to life!  No doubt I'll be revisiting Messrs. Scrooge and Stewart again for Christmas ... and for many years to come.

 

As for Part 2 of this task, eh voilà!

 

Age 4:

 

Christmas 1968: With my mom and my grandpa (and a new favorite doll)

Christmas 1968: With my grandma (and the selfsame doll)

Christmas 1968:
With my then-best friend: I actually had piano lessons at the time, but unlike the adults in attendance we thought it much greater fun to just hammer away at those keys wildly, at random, and as loud as we possibly could!

 

Age 6:

 

Christmas 1970: What a difference two years make ... and oh, how I hated those glasses.

 

Age 8:

 

Christmas 1972: Glasses gone again.  For the time being ... alas, they'd come back with a vengeance in my adult years, and there's unfortunately no way I'm getting rid of them again now.

 

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