Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back to my Roots

My early April week in Norway was deeply satisfying. It has been far too long since I've been. The brilliant new [to Britain] cheap airline got me there and back for under £100, and into Gardemoen rather than distant Torp. Anne-Ma met me in Asker, and we drove straight up into the mountains: suddenly we saw the Bitihorn starkly white, flecked with black shrub and trees. Her cabin just as warm and welcoming as ever; we also visited Eiliv's hut, and it was just the same, lined with books and paitnings. I found curious mementoes not hung before, perhaps Folke hunted them out: a portrait of me that my mother must have paitned secretly, i can remember the photograph, and one of Peter in the sixthform at Ardingly.  She must have sent them to Eiliv before I found out about him after Cambridge. I took pictures of them, and of the paintings. And of Eiliv's chair, still there in the corner of the room. It more than anything reminds me of him. I told Anne-Ma how much I'd wanted his typewriter but had been too shy to ask when they asked me what I'd like. She must have told Folke, as when we saw him in Oslo, he said he would hunt in the attic and see if it was still about. They are so kind to me, so straightforward and easy to talk to. I really ought to try and learn Norwegian. New resolve to translate Eiliv's Skotsk jord og norsk himmel (1946), written the year I was born, and the story of his time in Scotland, kicking his heels after crossing in the Shetland Bus.

Ski-loping was more satisfying than it has ever been. Perfect conditions, blue sky, slow snow, and once I could glide along without needing to think every step, it made thinking about the Ransome Book's structure, as I needed to do, very productive. Being away from home always makes my mind work more creatively. But there's no place better than my study once I'm on a roll.

Topsy Turvy

Just discovered this was entered only as a draft; wonder when it will appear in the Notebook . . .here goes. Mmmm April. Not very seasonal, but still good memories.
Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year
A cold coming we had of it, but very beautiful, and everybody got here. Gillian and Phil arrived from Venice via her sister in London on 23rd, allowing plenty of time to help me prepare all manner of delicious stuffings and sauces [mixing quince puree into the cranberries worked very well]. A good cast: Tilly and Tom and Ben [4]  and Meg [1], and Tom's father Tim and brother John. Jamie and Ellie and Sam [5] and Olivia [3]. Uncle Hugh. The usual menu: A plump young Turkey of 12lbs or so,  and two fleshy ducks from Alders, the wonderful Cowley Road butcher,  Mrs Thomas Hardy's Christmas Pudding [from Theodora Fitzgibbon's inimitable Best of British Cooking] using dried fruit that had been soused a long age in a huge jar of scrag ends of alcohol from the drinks cupboard topped up with akavit; also Hugh's best of all chocolate and rum and raisin icecream. First toast on return from church a shot of akavit in one swallow followed by a glass of champagne. Then presents while munchin smoked salmon and chipolata suasages, and knees under around 3.30. Wonderful time had by all, made the easier by Tilly bringing Christmas Cake, Ellie roasting potatoes and preparing sprouts at her house, and Susie doing the mashed potato.  Cherry on top was my first stocking in years, created by Susie and Joe. Snow on snow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chickens a scratching and all well with the world

Snowdrops blanket the near lawn, and the hellebores are ramping.  Cheerful sprouting of perennials everywhere, and the hens create the impression that forty maids with forty rakes rather than merely daughter Ellie [now my once-a-week gardener] have been tending the beds. Ellie is now admirably fit, as she is running the London Marathon [for a kids kidney research charity, as her little Sam has nephrotic syndrome] in a couple of weeks time. I'm much less fit, finding the present weather uninviting to tramp in, but with iron resolve I do get out at regular intervals. Not least because I need to: I'm head down in a lovely commission which unites three of my favourite things: Arthur Ransome, domesticity and boats (especially their cabins). It's for the Frances Lincoln authors at home series, but in AR's case we are making it Arthur Ransome At Home and Aboard (sic).  The first part will focus around his 'Lake in the North', his composite spiritual home of Coniston and Windernere, but the second half [Of Broads and Boats] will be about his holidays on the Broads, his waterside homes on the East Coast and his cabin yachts, Nancy Blackett, Peter Duck and Lottie Blossom. Racundra will also get a look in in a section called Foreign Affairs. Over-application always mean back-ache, and the sailing season, or at least MY sailing season, hasn't started yet. Just back from four lovely days in the Lakes, based with friends high behind Kendal who kindly lend me the best little writing retreat in the world.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Look

At long last I have got round to editing the freshened up website that Susie and Joe have created for me. Christmas is now just a warm memory of family gatherings and love. Time to start on those New Year Resolutions. It's good to have a fresh book on the stocks