Tuesday, 10 April 2012

'When The Green Woods Laugh' by H. E. Bates

Another escapade featuring the Larkin family.

There is something incredibly comfortable about reading these pleasing novels: Maybe it's the days-gone-by aspect of the tales or maybe the sense of family and friendship that is imbued throughout the writing but in any case these book are such a happy read that, despite thin plots by an author seemingly more concerned with food and nature, we are still invested in the characters, despite any modern morals we may wish to apply to them.

Actually this novel has a little more plot than the last with 'Pop' Larkin encountering city folk for good and for ill. It's also a neat commentary on the attitudes of both country and city folk regarding each other. It's also a tale of the bonds that unite people and how the simple things in life are often overlooked and under-estimated by some.
The food for once, whilst still very present, takes a back seat as it were to focus more on the plot and how it entwines the characters, old and new, that populate this book.

Once again I heartily recommend this as a fine, easy going, relaxing read.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Life Worth Reflection?

As the fibromyalgia that riddles my body continues to metamorphose, defying my attempts to 'adapt', I come to a point where I begin to ask 'what kind of a life do I actually have?' I ask what dreams and wishes I had and realise how few, if any, have been fulfilled.
This then leads me into thinking that there are and have been things that were in my control and things that were not.

As I look back I come to realise that there are so very many things that I regret; choices not taken, chances not observed and mistakes made.
I have not been one of those people who is able to see opportunity or one who is able to capitalise on any talent given me. Whilst others are able to concentrate and visualise their career goals and options, looking forward is not a strength of mine. Only when I have, say, a project on the go can I make any sort of projections. Where I am concerned I am secondary in the scheme of things.
When opportunities and the such might have shown up other things appear to have taken my attention; I drift from one thing to another, I move where fate deems to take me. At least that is what I might say. In reality not having a specific focus - only in later life has any inkling of what I want to do with my life come to me - allows other distractions to steal focus; the pursuit of love an example. And to what end? I am here ultimately alone.

Throughout my educational life it would have been much easier were I to have had a goal to work toward but I didn't. I tended to choose subjects and pursuits that I enjoyed never thinking about which may be more appropriate to help towards my goal - after all I had none! The same applied to University where I undertook a course in a subject I enjoyed but never thought would be a subject that I wanted to pursue career-wise. As it turned out I discovered, toward the very end of my degree course, that there was a part of the subject that seriously interested me and over the next few years that followed that interest became more acute until I realised that here was the goal I wish I'd had when I was a teenager. Now, progressing from my late 20s into my early 30s, I realised, with horror, that the field in which I wished to pursue a career was really one where you had to have started earlier. The chance, like many others before and since in my life, had passed.

I have said that I was blind to observing opportunity and this was (and maybe still is) true across my life; it is not just regarding a career that I am unobservant. I fail to recognise signs that a person is 'interested' in me, fail to understand when someone is offering me a lifeline. I have never wanted to take advantage of any other person and I fear that this attitude has played against me on more than one occasion.

I am not a confident person in any real applicable way. I am no great looker, have nothing but doubt in any talent I might once have possessed. I can feign confidence but when push comes to shove my true attitude comes to the fore. This can be crippling for any person irregardless of their profession or social standing and here my lack of self-belief, in anything to do with myself, is one which continues to set me back where I am always three steps behind.
It is also probably true that I am very much a coward.

And then, of course, when, in these later years, such dawning has arisen in my mind I find that a new enemy has come upon me. Fibromyalgia, an 'invisible' condition that can be looked down upon even by health care professionals, is eating away at any semblance of life I retain. The physical and emotional toil that it exudes upon me is enough to make me think that any last flickering chance I might have had to pursue the things I love has been extinguished. Here is the most pressing concern of my life - how to live with this accursed blight. The things that most take for granted - job, partner, friends - are now a distant shadow to me.

Living is different to existing and for these past few years I have only really been able to do the latter.
As I watch my social and professional life flit away (the latter well before the former) there are moments of brief despair. But I continue to try to 'adapt' though with little success as the condition continues to evolve, change and assume lordship over me. I am subject to its whims and were I to rebel it would always be at a dear cost.

So these are factors that come to my mind when I think of 'what if?' There are aspects which I could have, for certain, taken control of but there are also the aspects over which I have no control and lately these are the more prominent. I can make no excuse for the sad state of affairs I come to find myself in but this is my curse; that I must live knowing these things. And that I will live in probable regret for ever such a long time.
Even my dreams are torture to me.

I see myself for what I am. That is all. At least I am not blind to that.

I believe I shall be one of those whose greatest achievements are well behind them and to die will be an awful big adventure.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

'A Breath Of French Air' by H. E. Bates

The second novel to feature the Larkin clan is very much in the same vein as the first though, this time, the Larkins relocate to France for a month long vacation.

The plot is primarily made up of the family encountering foreign foods and customs which, naturally, irk them. Of course, the Larkin charm is ever present and ultimately wins over the doubting hotel staff who, initially, are taken aback by the English customs as displayed by the Larkin family.

The story isn't as well paced as 'The Darling Buds Of May' but the jolly cheer, jovial attitudes and indulgence of food is all still there making this still a pleasant read. The 'fish out of water' aspect is also refreshing so it is not simply a mere retread of things we've read before.
The characters still come alive off the page and, with the previous book, one feels satisfied when reading.

I'm looking forward to reading the next volume in the Larkin saga.