Lowbrow but not witless

These young swallows were watching their parents hunt insects over the green barley fields. They seem quite grown up, sat demurely on the wire. But whenever the grownups passed by with a mouth full of food -

They started squawking and screaming, demanding to be fed - even though they are quite capable of catching their own. Seconds later they flew off, as a sweaty, panting runner thumped past without a word of apology. I dedicate this little insight into teenage behaviour to all my friends who are having problems with their own fledglings.

The book purge is done. Nothing valuable or beautiful was sent away, certainly not the nature books that people were worried about! Only piles of tatty paperbacks and unwanted reference books. I've been lugging many of these around since I was a teenager and I have either grown out of them (various fantasy, sci-fi and horror), got bored of, know I will never read because they are dull or unfathomable to me (Virgina Woolf, Edmund Crispin, William Blake, Stevie Smith) or already have at least one copy of (more than you'd think, I have so many books I do often forget what I've got). Some authors simply irritate the pants off me or I only like certain of their titles. So I kept the brilliant 'IT' by Stephen King and culled one of his less accomplished efforts. I read Uncle Tom's Cabin twice in my youth, and will never read it again, worthy though it is. There are titles here I have no idea why I picked them up...knowing that I am not the only book nerd, I have left these photos at large size. There are some of Andy's in there too (no, I have never had an interest in boxing).

I confess without a shred of shame to having a pretty pulpy taste in fiction. As a rule I don't like modern fiction unless it is crime or some kind of Da Vinci code genre. Except Jilly Cooper and Phil Rickman, my two favourite authors and both sneered at by the literary elite. Anything which vaguely taxes my brain or emotions is a no-no. I read for pure escapism, and nowadays I read very rarely, as I don't have the time. Just five minutes before I fall asleep. So, from the under-the-stair piles of not-very-worthy titles, these were kept; some fantasy and horror which still passes muster, most of my crime collection. Old Penguins, even if the titles are obscure and we will never read them. Because they are objects of beauty. (Which is another reason why I pick up some old books, simply for the cover). A few of the less smug Aga-sagas. The only Virginia Andrews ('My Sweet Audrina') I still like to read (see, I did say I had pretty low brow taste...) My childhood copies of James Herriot.

I've done all the Jane Austens, years ago and enjoyed them, but it wouldn't matter to me if I never read her again. Shakespeare eludes me, and yes, I've tried. I do like Kafka, H.E Bates, L.P Hartley, E.F. Benson and Dumas. I adore Henry Williamson and Elizabeth Goudge. Am very picky about poetry; Dylan Thomas, James Reeves, Edith Sitwell, poor John Clare, Ted Hughes - his nature poems - Gerard Manley Hopkins. But those poets I do like, I love without reserve. Thinking about the eclectic jumble of the thousands of books I have stashed away, I realise that am a literary magpie, and as indiscriminate in my tastes as one. I would probably pick the tin foil cap over the gold ring any day; after all, they are both sparkly.

It is quite remarkable how happy we are now that we have decided to stay here - and the realisation that if we had somehow managed to move, we would probably have regretted it forever. While the weather is glorious and the evenings so light, we have taken to dusky walks round the fields, marvelling anew at the tranquil beauty of our patch. Bats buzzed us, and as we returned past the church, we surprised old Mother Toad lumbering up the pavement.

The poor dear made a hasty, if undignified retreat - mind how you go, mother!

For most of my life - since I was twelve - I aimed to move back to Devon. But as Andy gently pointed out, Devon in 1978, when I lived there and my parents were alive, is not the same as Devon now. Nor will moving there bring them back. In truth, I was wondering how I could bear to leave this little Cotswold sanctuary which has become home. Now that we are staying I feel an immense sense of relief that we have found some kind of contentment and had the wit to realise what we have before we left it behind.

Can you see the sickle Moon?


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I can see the sickle moon! Like a white eyelash.

I loved reading about your book favourites. I do hate that you gave up on Virginia. Reading her is rather like falling into the words. She's wonderful to me. But we share a love for Herriot and D. Thomas. And you've given me some books to look up....which I love to do.

And what a magnificent frog!!

Celeste said...

Most of my friends browse CD collects to judge if they'll like someone, I always browse the books. We're definitely likeminded.
I did English at uni but soon realised loving reading is a bad reason to do English literature. I focused on English language so I could carry on reading without having to pull the text apart too. Though my degree did introduce me to Jilly Cooper.
I read for escapism, it could be kids books, Mills & Boon, Historical text books, or Jane Austen.
Weaveworld is my favourite story ever, and I'm pleased to see you saved Milly Molly Mandy too.
I was going to ask if you'd heard of Miss Read as I've only just discovered her but I should have guessed you'd have them already, they're very you.

Have you heard of Librarything.com ? I spent a few days catalogue all 800+ of my books, time well spent I feel, it's a great site. Also heaven forbid anything happened to my books I'd be able to tell the insurance people what was lost, and I'd have a record of what I needed to buy again. Though a couple (Rebecca's World by Terry Nation for example) I couldn't afford to buy now.

I'm going to save these pictures for suggestions.

Acornmoon said...

I am so pleased that you have found that home is where the heart is.

Meliors Simms said...

I'm very very happy that you have found contentment in the beautiful place you already are. That is a truly blessed state of mind.

Anonymous said...

Hurray! Another Phil Rickman fan!! I too read for pure escapism but due to my tiny house and even tinier budget, I've taken to visiting the local library. I've cleared out tons of stuff too (including books) but I know it has a way of creeping back in.....

BumbleVee said...

So many times it has been said..."we never know what we had 'til it's gone"
I'm so glad you realized how lovely your place on the planet is before you made a jump that might have been a regret.... ....

Jess said...

Thanks for the swallows insight Gretel hehe! I was one of the most repellious teenagers and it lasted long past my teenage years (to my shame) so I'm lucky none of mine have followed suit! It's so hard not being worried about them when they're off having an adventure though, like now, when one of mine has gone to a festival in Belgium. With his hair drawing attention to him...oh sorry, I'm just worried!
Anyway, I'm so happy that YOU'RE happy with your decision to stay in the beautiful Cotwolds. We were there a couple of weeks ago and I said I wanted to live there instead of our usual daydream of Devon!. It's so easy to think life would be better in a new place but like you said, we have so much here that we'd have to give up.xx

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, your felt creations and share you love of books. First thing I notice when walking into someone's house is the books and shock horror so many houses have none!! I'm visiting London soon and am already making a list of books I want to buy. Have put Phil Rickman down as I don't know him but suspect it may be good for hours of reading pleasure?

Caroline B said...

That's quite a cull! Wish I had the courage to thin my collection out. I love to see what books people have in their homes, such an insight into their personality. I regard anyone with NO books with great suspicion.....

Lovely photos of the swifts - I read recently they are on the decline which would be a shame.

Frances said...

Those young swallows are so funny. Your photos do catch their lining up for supper perfectly!

All those books remind me of a similar (if smaller) clear out that I did some years ago. I donated my cast-offs to a local library for its regular fund-raising book sale. Mind you, there are still a lot of books around here, but they are better contained. Now, I use my library, and rarely actually buy a book.

It's wonderful to read of your contentment with remaining in the beautiful part of the world that you and Andy have made your own.


d. moll, l.ac. said...

Sickle moon fifth tree from the left. Many books purged and many kept, good work, inspirational really. A sweet decision you have made to stay, I think.

Janet Metzger, Artist said...

love the swallow pic's. When ever I mow our 3 acres the swallows appear and swarm all around me and the riding mower. They swoop and dive ..sometimes so close I feel the breeze of their wings. They will do this the whole time I am mowing. It is quite a site and it always makes me smile ;-) As soon as I finish mowing...Poof...they disappear.

Vicki said...

I have no idea what Devon is like, having only read about it and I know little about Cotswolds, most of which I've learned from your blog. Suffice it to say I have no right to any input at all about your choice but I am still happy that you have chosen to stay put and bloom where you're planted! It seems you have a lovely, cozy place.
Great job on the stairs. The look lovely. I agree 100% about carpet...dust mites and who knows what other cosmic compost is lurking there.
Fabulous photo of the swallows and I know some teenagers exactly like those juvenile swallows!
Love visiting the Cotswolds through your blog!

Elizabeth said...

So glad you are staying put in the Cotswolds.
The toad is entrancing.

What an excellent book purge.
I find I give the books I love away as in "You MUST read this!!!" and they never come back.... so I'm left with the stuff I only half liked.

I live in an apartment house where the laundry is in the basement.
We have a book shelf there where you can take a book or leave one.
Sometimes there are even review copies of stuff.
This is very liberating not to own the books.
Greetings from NY where I am friends with Frances!

Jackie said...

I'm so glad you spent a few megabytes keeping these pictures BIG!
I enjoyed seeing you have mapp and Lucia, several 'Mad' books(I was addicted to the Magazine when I was in sixth form) and you have the same two of a trilogy by CS Lewis that I have. I loved out of the Silent Planet!

Ronnie said...

Thank you for visiting "me" today, PG.
I've enjoyed your corner of the world this evening. I suspect you and Andy are snug in your beds,
but the blog goes 27/7! While you're dreaming of tomorrow, I'm taking a scooter ride with you through Cotswold. Those are the strangest looking cattle I've ever laid eyes on! Thanks for the ride! I didn't throw up! The internet is so cool. You've inspired me from across the ocean to clean out my overflowing bookshelf.

Kim said...

I have quite a passion for books too, and my taste is very ecclectic! A good clear out can be empowering and you now have room for a couple more!!!

We found that moving away had become a goal for it's own sake and when our motives were examined, we already had everything we were looking for!

I'm glad you're feeling contented now, a holiday can put things in perspective sometimes.

Kim x

Rowan said...

Those photos of the swallow babies are fantastic especially the one where you caught them with beaks gaping. I has to enlarge the last photo and look very hard for the sickle moon - I did spot it in the end though. Maybe time I got my eyes tested again:) I don't have highbrow tastes in literature either, I'm looking for escapism and entertainment when I read fiction.

Liza said...

I'm so glad you are happy in your newly-loved home. Maybe you should have a little ceremony to honour your long-term commitment to it!

I'm a voracious reader and far too voracious book buyer too. I try to give a book to charity for every one I buy, but it doesn't always work out that way! x


Darn it, I can't see that sickle moon no matter how hard I look - does this mean I'm a dullard?

Love reading about other people's book choices - I recognise a lot of familiar titles in those piles.

And I'm so glad you decided to stay. Somehow, where you are just seems right for you.

Lovely blog.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Yes, I can see the sickle moon but did have to click to enlarge - my poor old eyes! Love the before and after swallows,mother hood, it's tough, whatever your species. I'm a fan of Jilly Cooper too and when younger enjoyed reading John Buchan, starting with 'The 39 Steps' must read it again sometime. But then tastes change, I don't want to be disappointed, after all, I went through a phase of reading Wilbur Smith - far too graphic and gruesome to read now. And as for Stephen King, once but never again, too frightening. BFN. Lesley

Lorna said...

Drinks at the Queens now you are staying?

Frances said...

Thanks for your comment! I also quite like the Specials. Tried to get the BBC coverage of their concert, but my location was locked out. Ah well...sure that some video will turn up.

Bee said...

I am one of the moms with a difficult teenager at the moment . . . in fact, she went to London without our permission on the weekend, which caused much unhappiness to all. I appreciated your clever swallow pics (and explanation) hugely.

Love the stacks of books; I don't get rid of many myself, but heartily endorse all attempts at clear-outs. If your cottage is small, getting rid of that lot must have cleared some space!

I'm so happy that you are at peace with the decision to stay in the Cotswolds. I like the way you end on this restful photo.

Bee said...

p.s. I enjoy Jilly Cooper, too!

tlchang said...

I'm finding that I'm saving my 'low-brow' books for airplane rides (which have multiplied over the last few years). That way I can read on the plane and leave it behind when I'm finished. I hate transporting already read books. :-)

So with you staying in the Cotswolds, are you planning to stay in the same domicile? Or 'upgrade' at some point? (My chickens are wishing you mirror-versions of themselves...)

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I have read so many of the same books as you! I had all those Asimovs and those I didn't have, my Mum has. I have similarly low-brow tastes and have decided that I'd better not become famous, for fear of the glossy magazine article that features a different celeb each week, and asks them scary questions like, 'What are you reading now'? LOL! (A historical novel in the Nora Lofts vein, if you must know!) :-)

School on the Heath said...

All the truth's we need to know are told in fairy tales but we have each to make our own journies to understand them. Do I hear the click click click of the ruby slippers and "there is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home"

Frances Tyrrell said...

You don't mention it here, but Happy Birthday to you. I hope you curtseyed to the new moon and turned your silver in your pocket.


Renaissance said...

Phil Rickman is one of my all time favs too and I wait impatiently for the next Merrily Watkins. I've also enjoyed his writings as Will Kingdom and wish he would right another.
Glad to here that you've settled at least for now. I really do believe that sometimes things just don't happen because they are really not right of us at the time. For years both my husband and I wanted to move far away but for various reasons it never happened. You could say that fate intervened and prevented us from making a mistake as this has proved to be the most wonderful family home and has enabled us to have the lifestyle we so craved but believed we couldn't have here.

Merisi said...

I am so very happy that you have come to the end of long journey and can feel the contentment you so long searched for, right there where you are right now, in that precious place that is your home.

The toad is a bearer of luck, did you know that? I had one living in a planter right at my door steps, but only during winter. I often think of her, what new winter residence she will have found.

I looked at your pile of books. There's one about Wiener Dogs. I wonder what that one is about. I could not find the William Blake one. I own a tiny one with his own illustrations plus the Penguin paperback. There are several of his poems that I love. Every now and then I leaf through the books.

Steve Hayes said...

I didn't know the literary elite sneered at Phil Rickman -- it seems that very few people know about him, elite or otherwise, and his books are like hen's teeth -- difficult to find.