On the shelf

I was looking through our bookshelves hoping to find some inspiration for a non-food related post since it’s pretty much all I seem to have been writing about of late. Half a shelf of poetry books, a number of Korean War tomes with their tabbed evidence of past research, and a few general wartime information books …



…more books about language than I care to count, including several relating to Hiberno-English (Irish English) and lots on landscape photography (not mine). A whole raft of odds and ends relating to antiques, nature, football (not mine either). I rarely keep novels but there are a few favourites which have retained their spot amid the long term residents


And a couple of art books.

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When I first moved out of my parents’ home at the age of nineteen, and into my own, in pride of place on my sitting room wall, hung The Lady of Shalott.  She was a favourite then and still is (although that particular print is long gone having faded to a pale imitation of her vibrant beginnings). Years later, I was able to view the original in a J W Waterhouse exhibition at Tate in London. The painting, oft described as one of the greatest pieces of romanticism, is intended to represent Tennyson’s poem of the same name.

Lady of Shalott

A short extract from a long poem:
There she weaves by night and day 
A magic web with colours gay. 
She has heard a whisper say, 
A curse is on her if she stay 
       To look down to Camelot. 
She knows not what the curse may be, 
And so she weaveth steadily, 
And little other care hath she, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

The reasons for a particular painting or poem capturing our attention are diverse and often unfathomable. My favourite paintings nowadays are those rich, sultry offerings by Argentinian Fabian Perez about whom I posted here: Fabian Perez . However, I retain a soft spot for those Pre-Raphelite favourites of my younger self -and in particular Waterhouse and his contemporary, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (renowned for the realistic images of marble).  It’s an age since I opened these books, but in the middle of typing this post I began to flick through them both and an unexpected and happy hour looking at paintings I’d forgotten all about.

It saddens me greatly that my grandchildren, along with many, if not most, of their generation, seem to read very little; they prefer technology – playing electronic games, watching you-tube and ‘chatting’ with friends on social media. They are missing out on so much. How fondly I remember the excitement of losing myself in the world of the Famous Five, envious of the ease with which they fell into adventures, tracking down criminals, living like castaways on Kirrin Island. Yes they were middle class and privileged and are nowadays considered unrealistic, but (apart from gaining knowledge) isn’t that exactly why we read – to take ourselves off into an imaginary world, to ‘experience’ a life outside our own.

“When books are opened you discover you have wings.” ~ Helen Hayes



  1. I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of what is on your bookshelves! I love to read and so does my daughter. I had read somewhere that the current “everyone’s favorite organizing authority” has stated that one shouldn’t have more than 30 books! Yikes! I have at least double that number on just the shelves in the living room!


    • Thirty books! Ridiculous. One of the be,st bits of a holiday is the time available for reading. I want my grandchildren to experience the sheer pleasure of a totally absorbing books


  2. You’re right. My children definitely don’t read as much as I did. The visual medium is far more attractive I suppose. I enjoyed Enid Blyton too very much, especially the books she wrote about boarding school ☺️


    • Haha, I was convinced that boarding school would be a dream life! They all had such fun at Mallory Towers and St Clares!


  3. My ‘honorary’ grandsons, 9 and 6, love to read, am just hoping that continues as they grow older. ‘Lady of Shalott’ brings back lovely memories, not least everyone at my all girls school giggling at the ‘curse is on her.’ Innocent days. Funnily enough, was only talking last week to pals and saying how we can still recite huge chunks of Shakespeare and various poems because we learnt it as teenagers. Not sure anyone being taught on the current curriculum will be able to boast of that in 40 odd years time. BTW, still on the Huskie hunt, am determined to solve this now LOL. Savannah.


    • Yes, I think we were more innocent back in the day. There are all kinds of things I remember from them being drilled into us at school. I meant to write to Cadburys – you have reminded me!


  4. My two eldest grandchildren read a lot of books. Both are very good readers and still at primary school. I am hopeful that the two youngest will follow suit. They both like being read to.


    • I do very much hope so, Wendy. I hate that the girls don’t seem very interested, though they are both perfectly able.


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