“As she sets in the West, you’re in the Eastern sun”

Your eyes have seen the sun rise on 90 days,
you have felt the dust of three months on soft skin.
The woman holding you has gathered the days of war in her lungs,
and where her memories are now smoke signals not even she knows how to decipher,
her hands still tell her brain how to hold your little body so you won’t fall,
how to shield you from the world she has fought and conquered
and forgotten.

By the nursing home kitchen table
she’s got no notion that dark coffee will scold her own mouth,
but she moves the cup away from you,
”careful so he doesn’t burn himself.”

Suddenly, her language returns,
her voice is the voice of the woman who has been hiding
in the back of her heart
since the turn of the decade.

She has held so many children safe in her arms,
cured the scrapes of playground battles
and lulled sobbing nightmares to sleep with lullabies she can’t recall ever
knowing.

But holding you in hands that have held rationing cards –
knitting needles –
dried apple slices and one way tickets –
the lady in the back of her heart breaks the surface of forgotten memories,
takes a big gulp of air
and looks at the world
with her own eyes
once more.

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay 

-Andrea

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Dancing in September

You can’t not preface a September Wrap Up Post with some Earth Wind and Fire.

September’s brought along autumn weather – green leaves turning red, orange and yellows blurring into each other, the need for mittens and thicker scarves. With every year, I get more appreciative of autumn as it pops along, and this year I’m so here for crisper air and darker evenings.

September has seen:

  • The new logo that a good friend of mine has so kindly made for me and for this blog! I love it!
  • A lot of work; both cleaning, interpreting and guide work
  • Me getting back into cooking again
  • So much rain
  • Good books
  • The Downton Abbey Film premiere with lovely friends, followed by the best loaded chips I’ve ever had
  • A lot of studying
  • Handicrafts, knitting and crocheting
  • The old cosy knitwear resurfacing
  • A trip home-home, for a spontaneous autumn holiday
  • Lots of nephew cuddles and family evenings

September’s been a good one, as these months usually are.
I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“I get it” by Harvey Randall

Coffee soaked into the roof of a mouth
whilst rain rallies itself outside
strawberry fudge melting between teeth
fingertips on the back of a neck.
The mist outside falls
into the bottom of the mug
coalescing white smoke
condensate heart on a window
is this what it is meant to feel like?

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

-Harvey Randall

The big summer reading list; what I did end up reading this summer…

…which is far gone, I’m aware x

It will come as a surprise to no one that I didn’t end up reading most of the books on my summer reading list. The library job and my short attention span got in the way; the library because I just kept finding new books I was more excited to read than the one’s I’d decided I’d read, and the attention span for making me start multiple books at the same time.
However, I did end up reading a lot of interesting books, and I figured I’d gather them all in a post to see how this summer turned out, reading-wise!

Grab a cup of tea and get cosy, this is gonna be a long’un!

Heaven by Cristoph Marzi

This book got me hooked like a good YA book is supposed to do, but it also completely lost me at the end. I loved the creative and innovative story, and the characters’ voices were really well written. It is also set on the rooftops of London (“ooo, what a sight”) and in and around the city, and the writer clearly knows the city well, as it was easy to follow the plot around. The end felt really rushed, however, and had the main character leave a really bad taste in my mouth. It was the kind of ending I can imagine 13 year old me would find super romantic and heroic, but now I just found it problematic and unnecessary. There was a lot of angry, gendered language, and a lot of yelling of the variety of teenage boy being rude, brash and threatening to an adult woman for not letting him into a skyscraper in Canary Wharf in the middle of the night. The ending didn’t fit the rest of the story, which was frustrating, because the rest of the book was one of the better stories I’ve read in a very long time. Plus, the idea of a secret “underground”(overground?) network above London city is such a great start for a story about a girl with a stolen heart.

Blurb:
The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood…

David Pettyfer is taking a shortcut over the dark rooftops of London’s brooding houses, when he literally stumbles across Heaven: a strange, beautiful, distraught girl who says that bad men have stolen her heart. Yet she’s still alive…
And so begins David and Heaven’s wild, exciting and mysterious adventure—to find Heaven’s heart, and to discover the incredible truth about her origins. 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I really really liked this book! It came into my life in 2016, as the phrase “an angle who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” really got me intrigued. Life happened, however, and it took watching the 2019 tv series to pick it back up and woosh through it. There are some quiet stretches in the middle which felt a little bit redundant, but all in all, I adore this book and the characters and ideas portrayed in it. Definitely a good contender for the next reread.
Also, the blurb is its own work of art.

Blurb:
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Anges Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon – both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since the Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle – are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

I’m not sure what I feel about this book. I really loved the blurb (“Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire“), but I’m not sure the stories managed to deliver what was promised. I quite liked the poems, like “Fairy Reel” and “Locks, and loved some of the stories, like “October in the Chair” and “Harlequin Valentine”, but the book completely lost me on stories like “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and the ones that were based on the American Gods book. It took me a while to finish, as I wanted to read all of the book, but the stories I couldn’t get into slowed in down a lot. As a short story collection it felt a bit thrown together, and it was a bit difficult to follow the connection between the stories, but I do love Neil Gaiman’s writing and voice, and the parts I liked I really, really liked. If you’re picking it up, maybe give each story a go, but skip the ones you can’t get into, so you’ve got more time for the good ones!

Blurb:
Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Or after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls at parties.

There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

The Reprieve – Jean-Pierre Gibrat

I got this book at the library but can’t find the blurb anywhere online, and for once I didn’t get a picture of the back. In the Norwegian version it says that this is the prequel to Gibrat’s Flight of the Raven, but there doesn’t seem to exist an English translation of this originally French graphic novel anywhere? Well, here goes the plot, from memory:

The story is set in France during the WWII occupation, and we’re following the novel’s main character Julien. Julien is in the army, but jumped off a train to escape the war. Just after, the train he was on crashes, leaving very few survivors. A dead body is found in the wreckage with Julien’s wallet and papers on him, and so Julien is officially declared dead. He runs away back home and hides in the loft of an abandoned school, with the intentions of staying in hiding until the war is over. However, Julian grows impatient and bored, not satisfied with watching the village life from afar through an old telescope.

The colours and the illustrations in this graphic novel shows the days of war as both something terrifying and very concrete, but also as a haze, a sort of dance where people just had to keep living their lives and ignore the situation. As we see Julien watch his loved ones, his old friends, and even his own funeral from afar, we’re transported into a little french village of the 40s, with its quirks and its habits, its fashions, its politics and its aesthetics. The book got a little bit too long for what I felt the plot could fill, but still a great reading experience.

Flight of the Raven by Jean-Pierre Gibrat

A sequel to The Reprieve, this graphic novel can also be read on its own. I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I really liked the first book in the series. However, I felt like it didn’t deliver the strong female lead both the blurb and the cover promised you, and the feeling of “the places between shadows” (which I was very intrigued by) was also never really explored. The plot twist at the end also felt a bit hollow, as you as a reader wasn’t really given enough time to properly start caring about the characters. The relationship in the story starts of as snarky and sarcastic, and as a reader you’re not really sure when the romance starts to blossom as it suddenly just seems to be there.
However, it is filled with absolutely stunning art work and beautiful depictions of late 40s France, with its people, its rivers and its streets.

Blurb:
The story takes place in Paris during the German Occupation and stars a memorable heroine in the French Resistance, named Jeanne. With the help of an apolitical cat burglar named Francois she tries to save her comrades, including her missing sister Cécile, from the Gestapo. They walk in the places between shadows, as Gibrat uses the evocative Paris rooftops and river barges on the Seine almost as separate characters. 

Finna kyrkjedøra i meg (To find the church door in me) by Per Helge Genberg

I really wanted to like this book, but turns out it wasn’t for me.
It’s written almost like prose poetry – a story about a young queer boy growing up on a farm. It portrays his love for the animals on the farm, and coming to terms with his sexuality in a small and traditional place. It’s an explosion huge ideas condensed into punching, short lines, and it is written in nynorsk, which is another standard of Norwegian written language than the one I use. I love reading books in nynorsk, so that’s not what got me about this book, but I could not wrap my head around the ideas, I couldn’t catch a hold of the plot. All of the ideas felt so specific, but written in such a poetic way that I had no idea what I was reading, and it felt a bit like the writer was speaking a language in which I knew the words, but none of the implied meaning of any of the concepts. However, I’m so glad books like this one are being published though, as I’m sure it is the perfect read for someone else.

Blurb: (translated)
The thirteen year old boy sees a grown man naked on a warm day. It awakens an excitement strong enough to tell that something’s not entirely straight about his affections. What will happen to the farm now, the duties to his heritage which have been planted so firmly in him, and what about his inherited love for the animals? Everything may end with him.
Finne kyrkjedøra i meg is a gripping and tender story about growing up in rural Norway at a time when being gay brought more shame with it than it does today. It is about being without friends, and about social damage. It is about being who you are, where you are, and about finding and being allowed to live with the love of your life. It is a story covered in the love a farmer feels for his farm, his land and his animals, a love as strong as there are days in a year.

Wilder girls by Rory Power

This book is a ride!
The cover is beautiful, and I must admit, the reason why I picked it up. There are few flowers within the pages though; it is a very violent and gritty story, with a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas about illness, dysfunction, grief, pain and survival. I loved how unlikeable the characters were, it was interesting to read a completely female-lead story that was on one side exploring the characters and who they were growing up to be, but on the other hand having those same characters battle life threatening dangers, all on the same page. I also loved how unapologetically angry the characters were allowed to be, and how naturally characters who were part of the LGBTQ community were written.
The ending rubbed me the wrong way, though, it felt super rushed and like there are a couple more chapters hidden away on Power’s computer that really should have been included. I do quite like books where the ending makes you question literally everything you’ve just read, but this book didn’t feel finished when the last page was turned; a very frustrating feeling. It was also occasionally a bit challenging to keep track of all the characters, as some of the names are quite similar, but this was a very small issue all in all.

Blurb:
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Harvey’s mum, Tara, read this book while we were in France, and told me I had to read it. It’s always a little bit scary to read books other people tell you they’ve loved, cause you kind of feel like now you have to love them too, but I wanted to give it a go. I mean, you’re not sat in a wicker chair in an idyllic French garden overlooking a field full of horses NOT to read books with beautiful sentences like: “I put my hand on his hair. I’d stroked that hair when it was long and blond and full of sea salt, heather and youth; brown and shorter, full of building plaster and the kids’ play dough; and now silver, thinner, full of the dust if our life.”
I loved the beginning and I loved the ending of this book. The middle got a bit too long for me, and there were a couple of chapters I’d definitely cut if given the chance. But all in all, a very calm and quiet read, which made me want to underline a bunch of sentences because the language was very poetic.

Blurb:
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I finally read Will Grayson, Will Grayson!
2013 saw both my David Levithan and John green book obsession, but I never read this little gem. I remember my sister reading it and loving it, but I just never got to it. However, the campsite in France found me book-less, and so Harvey’s uncle very kindly lent me this one. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it now – I loved the journey that both writers took the reader on, from not really liking any of the Wills, to falling deeply in love with the characters, their thoughts and the changes they went through. I loved how explicitly they talked about how love and romance can’t fix mental health issues, and how friendly and familial love wasn’t looked down upon as less than romantic love. Lowercase will grayson’s mum was also a character I came to really appreciate, as a mum who’s been doing her absolute best with her own ups and downs. Also, how can you not love a book that reminds you that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you cannot, under any circumstance, pick your friend’s nose.”

Blurb:
Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.

It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and will grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.

Long post done, thanks for sticking with me!
Of course, as we’re at the end of September, summer’s been over for quite a while, but I hope you had some lovely reading experiences this summer past, and that autumn and winter will bring you many more evenings of snuggled up reading.

This is our time to shine, fellow blanket loving, hot chocolate craving book enthusiasts.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!
-Andrea

“In Defence of foreign accents”

The goal among the international students at my uni,
was to completely drop our accents –
to have our words sound like they’d grown up
with ice cream floats and builders tea.

We wanted to be able to go to any bar, to order any coffee,
to keep any conversation going for however long a time,
only to be able to slip in an
“oh, I’m not from England, actually,”
and watch people’s surprise.

We worked so hard, to lose our accents,
the rolling Rs, the hard Gs,
the lilts that gave us away;
the sound of what we thought was
“not good enough,”
“not practiced enough.”

Oh, how wrong we were.

Accents are identity, just as much as names and clothes
and the street corners you passed on your way to school.
Your accent’s where you’ve come from, it’s the dotted line on an airplane map,
it shows the world you dared to try.

Your accent is your family dinners, the lessons of your mum’s lullabies,
the laundry songs of your house,
the courage it took, to get on that plane.

It’s a road map of the people you care about,
those who sat with you while you were learning,
who let you spin wonders of the words you didn’t understand,
and who offered their pronunciation to try on for size.

My accent grew up with snow in its boots and saltwater in its nose.
My mispronounced “shower gel”,
My Ds and Ts blurring into each other,
is my home away from home.

So instead of dropping our accents,
let us celebrate them.
For all that we are,
and all we’re yet to learn,
and every step along the way.

-Andrea

On the first day in August..

…I want to wake up by your side

How is it September already?
August really flew by this year, and I feel like the months just slipping through my fingers like sand in an hour glass (or something else equally poetic) has become the theme for these wrap-up posts. To be fair, come November I’ll be screaming “can’t it just be Christmas already??”, so not really sure I can be the one to talk, but right now at least, I feel like the days are passing just that bit too quickly.

August has been great though, and I’ve gotten to:

  • Start the month in France, plus stay in both a little gite + a tent in a campsite
  • Go swimming in a French lake + “float” across said lake on a homemade raft
  • Explore Tence and Chenereilles with Harvey
  • Bring Harvey back to Norway with me for three weeks, and show him my home in proper summer-gear
  • Spend more time with my nephew, plus introduce him to Harvey
  • Start my third year of uni!
  • Meet a lot of wonderful new people
  • Translate a few more services
  • Get back into my guide job and start a new part-time cleaning job on the side
  • Get some more writing done for the business
  • Receive 38 postcards through Postcrossing (!!!)
  • Spend Friday-Sunday at a hotel in a neighbouring city, basically being thrown into the deep end with student politics, at my uni’s Student Parliament’s kick off-seminar
  • Sleep in 7 different beds; in Chenereilles, at the camp site, at home-home, on an air mattress in the flat, in my own bed in my own flat, in a hotel with Harvey and in the hotel with the Student Parliament

What a month! Thanks for stopping by and having a look, and I hope you’re having a wonderful day.

-Andrea

“Carrot Cake Counting”

Right now you’re on a coach,
somewhere between a forest and a mountain
on your way to another country,
and if that’s not ridiculous, I don’t know what is.

I have to remind myself that you are going home,
that I do not own you or your time,
that carrot cake and Tuesday mornings
and “have a lovely day at work” isn’t our norm,
just yet.

For now our norm is plane tickets and good night messages,
FaceTime birthday songs and counting.
Always counting.

Counting days,
counting weeks,
counting months.

Image by Sofia Iivarinen from Pixabay 


-Andrea