Monday, 19 November 2018

November News

Good news for my family: My Dad is coming home today!! He has made great progress over the past two weeks at the rehab clinic, and I am very proud of him - it must have been really hard work to get to where he is now. There is still room for improvement, of course, and we are sure that returning to his familiar environment will give his mind another boost, and further increase his motivation to continue working on his physical condition.

Unfortunately, I won't be there to welcome him, as I am out of town for work for the next two days, and there are two more work-related events I am supposed to attend later this week. But as soon as I can, I'll pop in with my parents to see how my Dad has been settling in. Actually, I think it is good for my parents to have time to themselves at first, before the round of visitors begins!

So, it looks like my biggest Christmas wish this year - to have my Dad back with us, and him really being my Dad again - is coming true.

Now I've said it: The C-word... some of you dread it, I know from your blogs. I love it, as you know from my blog. It is still a bit over two weeks until the opening of my home town's Christmas Market, but it has turned cold enough now to see the first frost appear on my neighbour's lawn, as spotted this weekend from my kitchen window.

So far, November has been very colourful and not at all the grey, dreary month it is often thought of. Here is photographic evidence :-)

At quarter past 7 on the 10th of this month, this was the morning sky as seen from my bedroom window:

And here the view from my kitchen window:

A walk with O.K. around the perimeter of his village on the 11th:

The mountain range in the distance are the Vosges:

It was foggy on the morning of the 14th, as you can tell from this (yes, another one!) view from my kitchen window:

The mulberry tree in front of my bedroom lights up the day with its yellow leaves, no matter how thick the fog is:

After visiting my Dad yesterday, walking from the clinic to the train station, my Mum and I came across this car - look at the license plate! I don't think I've ever seen a car bearing my name :-)

I hope November is full of colour for you, too.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Read in 2018 - 19: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers
by Roger Riccard

When I was about 10 years old, I went through a Sherlock Holmes phase and read all the books available at my school’s library.

The first time I realised that such a thing as fan fiction (or "pastiche") officially exists was much later, in connection with Star Trek some time in the 1990s, when I found out that numerous fans have written, more or less professionally, stories involving the characters and settings of their favourite series.

Hardly surprising, then, that the same is true for almost any popular set of characters from films, series and books, including Sherlock Holmes.

The book I am reviewing here is one such example of pastiche. It was published in 2014, long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's death, and it is part of a series of Holmes-based fan fiction, some (but not all) by the same author. The story is set 5 years after Sherlock Holmes' presumed death, and it nicely ties in with someone whose biography I have read and reviewed here not long ago: Samuel L. Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain.

The famous author and his family are in London for a series of talks when a briefcase with notes disappears from their hotel suite. Everything looks as if someone stole those papers, which were going to be included in Mark Twain's autobiography, either to hinder their publication or to publish them without the author's consent in order to make profit.

Somehow, Twain finds out that Holmes is still alive and goes to find him at his rooms in Baker Street, where he and Dr. Watson have not been idle over the past five years, but deliberately stayed below the public's radar. Twain's case interests Holmes enough to break his reclusion, and soon he and Watson are interviewing suspects, travelling by train as far as Bristol, staying at country houses of the rich and famous, and visiting theatre performances and clubs.

As a sideline, Watson bumps into an old acquaintance. Both he and the lady are now widowed, and romance blossoms. I kept hoping she or her family had nothing to do with the case!

I really enjoyed this book; it was never overly lengthy but detailed enough to picture all the characters, rooms, houses and other places very well. 
Written from Dr. Watson's perspective, I particularly liked those bits that dealt with Watson's own life and experience, showing him not merely as a sidekick to Holmes' great mind. 
Of course the story held special appeal for me because of the Mark Twain angle. I have yet to read his autobiography, and naturally there won't be any mention of Holmes in it - but the famous author really was in London (more than once, I should think), and if Holmes and Watson had been real people, it is easy to imagine their paths would have crossed, and they would have liked each other. In case I'll come across more free ebooks from this series on Amazon's kindle shop, I will definitely download them.

Friday, 9 November 2018

A Mixed Bag...

...was pretty much what October was - see my previous post. November has begun a little less worrisome, still very busy, still rather mild for the season, still way too dry.

Let me just give you a rough outline of what have been (and still are) the worries mentioned last time I wrote on here. Some of you already knew that my Dad was very ill and had to be taken to hospital.
Without wanting to bore you with much detail (and at the same time respecting my family's privacy), in short, his condition was life-threatening and he was at the ICU at first. Once he was more stable, he was transferred to other wards (he spent the first two weeks in four different rooms). After 3 weeks in total, last Wednesday my Dad was transferred to a geriatric rehabilitation clinic about 40 minutes by car from where we live.
He is making progress and we are cautiously optimistic where regaining his physical strength is concerned. We are realistic enough to understand that quite probably, life for my parents (and therefore, for us) will not be the same again after he returns home, but as long as a certain level of almost normal day-to-day life will be possible, we'll be glad.

Last week was a short working week for me, as Thursday (Nov. 1st) was a holiday and I took the Friday off. O.K. did the same, and so we spent a nice, long weekend together at my place. 

Since the weather has turned a little cooler, making something in the oven was a good idea. I made Quiche on Saturday and a mix of grilled vegetables on Sunday.

The recipe I use when I make quiche is here; I posted it six years ago.

We went for a walk on Sunday and came across this field of grown-out asparagus:

The last set of pictures I took on my way to hospital one day, walking through the palace grounds (Ludwigsburg's main hospital is right next to the park) and stopping very briefly to have a look at the old gardeners' shed and greenhouse, which is partly still in use and partly deliberately left to look the way it once was, with old gardening tools about.

I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere; there were no other people about, and the autumn afternoon light was just beautiful.

Tonight, together with a friend and colleague I am going to an 80s party! We've been at this venue and this type of party two or three years ago and had great fun. Now we hope for a repeat - after all, they will be playing the music of my teenage years, and I'll be on the dance floor as much as I can, enjoying the party without the awkwardness I felt as a teenger. Back then, I so wanted to be cool - now I just KNOW I am :-)

Tomorrow morning I'll be on the train to O.K.'s. I am very much looking forward to that, too (not so much the train ride, though; time tables have changed again and there is no connection at the moment with just one change; I need to hop from one train to the other twice now). 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

October is Over

October is over, and it has felt very long as a month. It was filled with work and worries (I will possibly tell you more about that in a later post; for now, let it suffice to say it had nothing to do with my health or O.K.), but also with sunshine and good things.

Here is a collection of pictures I took during the month with my phone, to give you an idea of what the month was like over here.

This was taken on the 4th of October at 8:34 from a client's office on the 9th floor - the view across Ludwigsburg practically non-existent:

A few hours later, it looked like that:

I spotted these unusual plane trails in the sky on the 5th of October on my way to work:

Leaving my parents' place on the 9th of October at around 7:00 pm to this beautiful sunset:

On the 10th, I left another client's office already before 4:00 pm and was greeted by this beautiful tree just outside the building:

Two days later, this was the view from my kitchen window at 7:30 in the morning:

I spent two weekends at O.K.'s and took these pictures in and near Offenburg on the 13th:

At 7:41 on the 18th, this is how the sunrise looked from my kitchen window:

The same view at 7:00 on the morning of the 30th - the colours are "as seen", I have not done anything with the picture:

And yesterday morning:

I hope October was a good month for you, and November will be just as good. It is always something of a mix of emotions for me; I love this season with its beautiful light and colour, but there is also sadness as it would have been my late husband's 50th birthday yesterday, and the 9th anniversary of his death is coming up on Nov. 5th.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Read in 2018 - 18: Blood Guilt

Every now and then, I come across a piece of mystery or crime fiction I find so gripping that I need to pay attention on my train trips to and from work so as not to forget getting off at the right stop. "Blood Guilt" by Ben Cheetham was one such book.

The setting is Sheffield, a city I know well enough to set the inner camera in motion while reading about it. The plot is quickly told: A young boy dies in an accident. His parents' marriage does not survive the traumatic event. The father's work as a Detective Inspector at first suffers, too - then he accidentally kills another man, and the life he knew until then is well and truly over. After four years in prison, Harlan Miller is released only to learn that the son of the man he killed has been abducted.
Trying to find the boy and bring him back to his mother becomes the only reason to live for Harlan.

The reader is taken along on the fast-paced search for young Ethan, which is at the same time Harlan's search for atonement. Of course, there are some dead ends and red herrings, and more than once, it seems impossible that Harlan should ever live long enough to succeed.
The characters appear credible, although I have no way of telling how realistic some of their thoughts and actions are, since I have never been in a situation even remotely similar - and hope I never will be!

The book is not just a modern whodunnit and how and when good will win over evil. It shows what many of us would rather not think about: The capacity for crossing the border between right and wrong, light and dark, and what that can do to a person.

"Blood Guilt" was first self-published by the author in 2011. Ben Cheetham has his own website here, but he is also right here on blogger. I think I want to read "Angel of Death", too - my edition of "Blood Guilt" contained the first chapter of that, and it promises to be just as gripping.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Read in 2018 - 17: Ruth Robinson's Year of Miracles

"Ruth Robinson's Year of Miracles" is, as far as I know, Frances Garrood's fourth novel, and also the fourth I have read. In short: I think it is my favourite!

I really enjoyed meeting the cast of characters. Everyone came across fully fleshed-out, with their own personality. Most of the story takes place at a more or less rundown country house with a collection of ramshackle outbuildings. While I don't think I could stand the unkempt state of the house, it is described in a way that makes it feel like a true home.

At first, I did not have much sympathy for Ruth. A grown-up woman who is capable of holding a regular job and a flat ends up with an unplanned pregnancy - in this day and age, that is simply not necessary.

But Ruth is the kind of person you can not help liking after a while, although she never tries to elicit compassion from anyone.

Circumstances make it impossible for her to stay at her own flat or move back in with her parents, and so there is just one option: her uncles' country house.

Now, these uncles are as important to the story as Ruth herself. I won't tell you more about them, only that I hope you will like them as much as I did, and I am sure Frances had a lot of fun with them while she was writing about them.

After many more things happening - some of them dramatic, others comical -, the main storyline ends neatly in a way that should satisfy every reader. The only thing I would have liked to know more about was the main "miracle" (again, I am not going to tell you more as I want you to read the book for yourselves). There is hardly any mention of it anymore in the last third or so of the book, and the natural (or supernatural?) cause is not revealed.

So, please go and buy this book - and then read it. I don't believe you will be disappointed. There are enough bits that you may find funny (or should that be witty?), and enough to inspire some deeper thoughts, if you're so inclined - it depends on you, as the book has it all.

For my reviews of her other books, simply type "Garrood" in the search box in the upper left corner of my blog. If you want to visit Frances' own blog, click here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Read in 2018 - 16: The Moonstone

The Moonstone

by Wilkie Collins

This mystery novel, originally published in 1869, was my train travel reading for several weeks - it is a lengthy book, but I captured my attention enough for me to want to find out what was going to happen.

The plot is simple enough: A big diamond, very important to a Hindu cult and its followers in India, is stolen by an English army officer when his regiment attacks the cult's temple during the time the British brought India under their control.

Many years later, the diamond (called "Moonstone" because it has an opaque core that shines like the moon) is given to family member for her 18th birthday. The young lady does not know of the violent history of the jewel, but soon realises nothing in her and her family's life will ever be the same again.

The moonstone is taken from her room, and the police are called. Strangely enough, the young lady, although very upset about the missing stone, refuses to cooperate with the police. Does she know who took it, or is she in some other way involved in the theft?

The number of suspects is small enough; the servants are quickly ruled out, but still there is no progress in the investigation, and the moonstone is not found.

A year or so later, the young lady's mother has died, a young servant has committed suicide, the lady is about to marry a man she does not really love, and the stone as well as its thief are still at large.

The young man who love s her returns from a trip to Europe and reopens the investigation with the help of a retired detective. Together with the oldest, most faithful and most trusted servant of the family, they solve the puzzle - not after many more dramatic events.

All this is presented as if written by the various persons involved, each from their own perspective. I most enjoyed the servant's account; he was my favourite character in the book. The others vary from humorous to dramatic, and some are really unnecessarily lengthy, but everything is within character, and leads to a rather surprising solution of the whole case.

Needless to say, the book ends well; the young lady and the man she loves are together, and the stone is restored to its rightful place.

The wikipedia entry says that the story " generally considered to be the first detective novel, and it established many of the ground rules of the modern detective novel." I had not heard of the author before, but his own entry on wikipedia is rather interesting. The picture is not mine - my free kindle version from Amazon has a very plain cover.