Friday, 30 August 2013

redshank, chimney meadows, morris' manor, posts revisited, more holiday reading, tales out of school





































Walked to Shifford Lock on Wednesday (top four photos) and to Kelmscott from Grafton Lock yesterday. Lovely to see lots of redshank in flower on the edges of Chimney Meadows, close by the Thames (top photo). The summer views along that stretch of the river now are so different to those snowy ones on 27th December 2010.

Meanwhile, a fresh crop of reeds are growing just below William Morris' manor--last season's were photographed on this walk on 7th April this year.

A couple of things relating to pics from recent posts. According to my brother-in-law, linseed is left on the field for several weeks after ripening so that the stalks soften down (see preceding post). They are like wire otherwise and would be hard to harvest. Also, looking at that photo of what I referred to as plums (three posts back), I can see I was wrong--they must be some sort of crab apple.

Enjoying The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson, which is such a readable book to dip into. Williamson's style is old-fashioned enough to have immediate authority but contemporary enough to be immediately accessible. He also tells a good story, his narratives carrying you along as he picks out telling details and guides you through the history rather than forcing his opinions upon you. There is plenty of space in which to make up your own mind about what happened. I like his occasional understatements. At one point he writes of Hernán Cortés, 'But on his return to Tenochtitlán he found the Spaniards at bay and the Aztecs in a belligerent mood.' I imagine they were furious!

Benjamin Taylor's Naples Declared is hugely enjoyable too. His prose reminds me of Jan Morris' in her Oxford and Venice books. It is described on the back cover as 'a work of voluptuous erudition', although this phrase suggests to me that the narrative might be overly rich, which it certainly isn't. The narrative is light and beguilingly simple, the erudition coming into play with the choice of just the right unusual word or Italian phrase being used sparingly here and there.

Back in 1996 I reviewed Taylor's episodic novel Tales Out of School for the Time Literary Supplement. My concluding para went as follows: 'The novel's form necessitates a pared-down style, yet its effects are, by turns, dryly humorous and moving, learned and colloquial, the tone lyrical, and the descriptions richly suggestive, particularly of landscape. Taylor's vision is an idealistic one, but it is none the less effective.'

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