I had to happen. A ‘snap’ lockdown. Bang go the plans for the weekend. But life was ever thus. Just when we have won the lottery we are diagnosed with a terminal disease. Searching for inspiring reading I came upon a book by A E Ellis, Father of Rational Emotive Therapy.
If you don’t know his style, here is an excerpt from his book, How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable
If you think about it, you can see that all these irrational Beliefs are arrogant forms of whining: ‘If I don’t do as well as I absolutely must, I’m a worthless, pitiful person!- Whine, whine!’ If you don’t treat me as well as you absolutely should, you’re a contemptible person for being so rotten to poor woeful me!- Whine, whine!’ ‘ if the conditions of my life are not totally good, as they completely must be, the world’s a really horrible place for poor pathetic me! -Whine, whine, whine!’
The punctuation. phrasing and sentiments are typical of his writing. His approach seems to be, ‘You think this is bad… It could be a million times worse’ then proceeding to outline in how many ways things could be worse. He does use humour; I like his concepts of ‘Awfulizing’ and ‘I can’t-ism’, but generally his tone is, ‘Stop whining and pull yourself together you big baby.’ Not the most sympathetic approach.
Then friends sent me two books which were just perfect.
The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson a beautiful little book about a six-year-old girl and her artist grandmother whiling away a long summer on an island in the gulf of Finland. Their life is spent roaming the island, discussing many things. They fall asleep under bushes, they build a mini-Venice, they discuss religion and Sophia and her father move on from grief. Here is grandmother singing a song
Cowpats are free,
But don’t throw them at me
For you could get hit
With cow shit!
And here they are gathering…
Gathering is peculiar, because you see nothing but what you’re looking for. If you’re picking raspberries, you see only what’s red, and if you’re looking for bones, you see only the white. No matter where you go, the only thing you see is bones. Sometimes they are as thin as needles, extremely fine and delicate, and have to be handled with great care. Sometimes they are large, heavy thighbones, or a cage of ribs buried in the sand like the timbers of a shipwreck. Bones come in a thousand shapes and every one of them has its own structure.
A touching and funny account of lives far away from the present written with Jansson’s usual simplicity and wit.
The third book must be the only P D James novel I haven’t read, The Private Patient, her fourteenth Adam Dalgliesh novel. This was her last book. written when she was, by my reckoning, eighty-eight years old. Of course, it is predictable; the set-up, the crime, Dalgliesh with his murder bag and his team, but as always, James draws us into the intricacies of the plot and of human failings. Dalgleish questions himself as in other books, but in this novel, I don’t think I’m giving too much of a spoiler to say, he finally gets married. In an early book he lost his wife and twin babies in childbirth, but in this book, he marries Emma, said to be too young for him. As he must be in his sixties if one goes by the chronology of the books this is true, but perhaps he is like Superman, and ageless.
There is plenty of wine and good food here, descriptions of furniture and art, and mostly things work out well, although being P D James there is always a disquieting element
They walked without speaking, their shoes sounding hobnailed on the tarmac lime resolute and threatening invaders, alien creatures disturbing the peace of the night. Except, Kate thought, that it wasn’t peace. Even in the stillness she could hear the faint shuffles in the grasses and from time to time a distant, almost human cry. The inexorable succession of kill and be killed was being played out under cover of darkness. Rhoda Gradwyn wasn’t the only living creature that had died 5on that Friday night.
Pretty good? It hit the spot for me. I needed a bit of light relief after my weeks with Ulysses.
Moving on soon to Book 8, The City and The City by China Mieville.