Book day!

Yesterday, the tenth of October was  Literature Day in Finland – how brilliant! This is something I wrote last year:

Finns  don’t have to fly the national flag on Literature Day, but they are encouraged to do so, and it struck me that it would be a great idea to have something similar over here. I don’t mean anything like national Book Day where children dress up as  characters from books – although I guess that could be an aspect of it, but I mean a day to celebrate the wonderful achievement of writers from Britain.

In Finland, the date was chosen because it was the birthday of Alexis Kivi, who is recognised as one of the greatest Finnish writers of all times. His real name was Alexis Stenvell and he was born in 1834; he wrote plays, but is perhaps best remembered for a novel called ‘Seven Brothers’ which was published in 1870, two years before his death at the early age of thirty-eight.

Kivi was born in 1834 and while at university became involved with the theatre; his first play was  Kullervo and was inspired by the national epic, Kalevala. He went on to write twelve plays altogether, and he was a poet, but he is most remembered for his one novel, ‘Seitsemän Veljestä’, ‘Seven Brothers’ which took him nearly ten years to write. One of the significant things about the novel is that it was written in Finnish; up until then most writers used Swedish.

If we had a National Literature day, when would it be held? There are so many dates in contention:

  • January 25th is already celebrated in Scotland and by Scots people everywhere as the birth date of Robbie Burns in 1759, he died July 21st 1796
  • February 7th when Dickens was born in 1812 or when he died in 1870, June 9th
  • April 17th, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 in Wales
  • April 23rd to commemorate Shakespeare, 1564-1616 – but he is already commemorated on this day – and it’s St George’s Day, and it’s the anniversary of the death of Henry Vaughan in 1695
  • May 22nd 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh – he died in England in 1930 on July 7th
  • August 15th – Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771; he died in Melrose on September 21st 1832
  • October 25 – the great 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer died 1400 in London, (no-one knows exactly when he was born)
  • October 27, 1914 Dylan Thomas was born; he died  November 9, 1953
  • November 9th when John Milton was born in 1608 – or December 8th when he dies, in 1674
  • November 13th one of my favourite story-tellers, Robert Louis Stephenson was born, also in Edinburgh, and died in Samoa December 3rd 1894

So quite a selection of dates – and I’m sure other people would think of more! So here is the section, bear in mind time of year, other festivities about the same time and clashes with other special days:

  • January 25th birth of Robbie Burns
  • February 7th birth of Dickens
  • April 17th birth Henry Vaughan
  • April 23rd Shakespeare’s birth and death, death of Henry Vaughan
  • May 22nd birth of Arthur Conan Doyle
  •  June 9th death of Dickens
  • July 7th death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • July 21st  death of Robbie Burns
  • August 15th birth of Sir Walter Scott
  •  September 21st death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • October 25 death of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • October 27 birth of Dylan Thomas
  • November 9th birth of John Milton, death of Dylan Thomas
  • November 13th birth of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 3rd death of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 8th death of John Milton

 

Literature Day

Today, October 10th is Literature Day in Finland; Finns  don’t have to fly the national flag, but they are encouraged to do so, and it struck me that it would be a great idea to have something similar over here. I don’t mean anything like national Book Day where children dress up as  characters from books – although I guess that could be an aspect of it, but I mean a day to celebrate the wonderful achievement of writers from Britain.

In Finland, the date was chosen because it was the birthday of Alexis Kivi, who is recognised as one of the greatest Finnish writers of all times. His real name was Alexis Stenvell and he was born in 1834; he wrote plays, but is perhaps best remembered for a novel called ‘Seven Brothers’ which was published in 1870, two years before his death at the early age of thirty-eight.

Kivi was born in 1834 and while at university became involved with the theatre; his first play was  Kullervo and was inspired by the national epic, Kalevala. He went on to write twelve plays altogether, and he was a poet, but he is most remembered for his one novel, ‘Seitsemän Veljestä’, ‘Seven Brothers’ which took took him nearly ten years to write. One of the significant things about the novel is that it was written in Finnish; up until then most writers used Swedish.

If we had a National Literature day, when would it be held? There are so many dates in contention:

  • January 25th is already celebrated in Scotland and by Scots people everywhere as the birth date of Robbie Burns in 1759, he died July 21st 1796
  • February 7th when Dickens was born in 1812 or when he died in 1870, June 9th
  • April 17th, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 in Wales
  • April 23rd to commemorate Shakespeare, 1564-1616 – but he is already commemorated on this day – and it’s St George’s Day, and it’s the anniversary of the death of Henry Vaughan in 1695
  • May 22nd 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh – he died in England in 1930 on July 7th
  • August 15th – Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771; he died in Melrose on September 21st 1832
  • October 25 – the great 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer died 1400 in London, (no-one knows exactly when he was born)
  • October 27, 1914 Dylan Thomas was born; he died  November 9, 1953
  • November 9th when John Milton was born in 1608 – or December 8th when he dies, in 1674
  • November 13th one of my favourite story-tellers, Robert Louis Stephenson was born, also in Edinburgh, and died in Samoa December 3rd 1894

So quite a selection of dates – and I’m sure other people would think of more! So here is the section, bear in mind time of year, other festivities about the same time and clashes with other special days:

  • January 25th birth of Robbie Burns
  • February 7th birth of Dickens
  • April 17th birth Henry Vaughan
  • April 23rd Shakespeare’s birth and death, death of Henry Vaughan
  • May 22nd birth of Arthur Conan Doyle
  •  June 9th death of Dickens
  • July 7th death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • July 21st  death of Robbie Burns
  • August 15th birth of Sir Walter Scott
  •  September 21st death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • October 25 death of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • October 27 birth of Dylan Thomas
  • November 9th birth of John Milton, death of Dylan Thomas
  • November 13th birth of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 3rd death of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 8th death of John Milton

 

Not very good at reading

Ever since I learned to read, probably when I was about four or five years old, I have read and read and read. I used to have a little note-book and I would write down the title and author of every book, and the date I read it, and I would be reading about four or five books a week. I borrowed my mum’s library card so I could have books from the adult section of the library as I had read and reread most of the ones in the children’s. I read everything I could lay my hands on, and every book I started I finished, and I’m surprised now, looking back the great tomes I read as a child – unfortunately I no longer have my notebooks with my lists, that would be so interesting now! The only book I can remember not finishing was ‘Rob Roy’ by Walter Scott… or was it ‘Ivanhoe’?

I don’t read as much now, but I read every day, and always read before I go to sleep… However… I find I struggle with some books now… books I don’t like or am not enjoying I struggle to finish… Which is ok, I can give up reading something if I want to but when it is a book for my book club,either of my two book clubs, I feel bound to do my best to finish it… but sometimes it’s like torture!

Recently we read ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoevsky… I didn’t struggle reading that; grim though the story is, I was fascinated, gripped and read it way past my bedtime! Last year we read novels by Wilkie Collins – gosh, I galloped through them, utterly hooked! So it is not the length of the book,  but it is something else, which I can’t quite pin down. I’m really hooked on complicated Scandinavian and Icelandic literature with unfamiliar names, I read complex history books, especially about Tudor espionage, and I read about prehistoric societies and archaeology. So I can actually still read, I can persevere with complex ideas and arguments…

Our latest book for one of my book clubs is ‘The Seven Sisters’ by Margaret Drabble, and I have to confess I just have not been able to finish it… I couldn’t engage with the character who narrated the first part of the story, I had no interest in her, I didn’t find her believable, I was just irritated by her… and the writing seemed contrived, corny, artificial, and in places just twee… I know Drabble is a well-respected and much published writer, broadcaster and journalist, but really I did have to wonder, if her name had not been attached to it whether it would have been published…

Now if I can read through some of the long and daunting chapters of Dostoevsky, and really get to grips with the work, why did I just fail with Drabble? I cast her aside, and even though I feel I’ve let my book club down by not finishing it, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend another minute in her tedious company… not her personally, but her main character.

This is not the first time it has happened… if I look through the choices of novels, I have to say, there have been more I have struggled with than those I’ve enjoyed… I love the book club, love my friends, and always have a great evening together, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually not very good at reading.

 

May 2013…

A year ago I had a fabulous, fabulous weekend… to Manchester to see the Mavericks with my good friends Hannah and Jenna, then the next day to Birmingham… to see the Mavericks, with Hannah and Jenna!

Here is what I wrote:

I always think of Manchester as ‘my’ town; I moved there when I was eighteen, and although I subsequently moved to Oldham, I was still at heart a Mancunian. Now I live in the south-west… so when people say where am I from I never know whether to say Cambridge where I was born, Manchester which took my heart, Oldham where I lived for nearly twenty years, or Uphill where I am now…

I went to Manchester last week to see the Mavericks, and two friends came with me and I was so delighted that the city looked absolutely splendid. We had a wonderful time and a memorable time, partly because of Manchester.

DSCF3075My friends posing by what I presume is a canal basin by the Bridgwater Hall

There is a first class tram service, quick, cheap, efficient… and clean! Nothing worse than trying to show off a place you love and it lets itself down with grubby poor transport. A lot of buildings had disappeared since I was there… and a lot of them were not of any architectural or historic merit but often badly built, tatty and shabby… not what could be said of the marvellous new architecture in the city centre.

DSCF3080Not every old place has been pulled down – this delightful little pub used to be quite shabby and not somewhere I fancied visiting… Look how smart it is now…

DSCF3081…. while still retaining its quaint old features. Peveril of the Peak is named after a horse-drawn stage-coach that ran from Manchester to London. There is also a  novel by Sir Walter Scott of the same name. It was built in the early 1800’s and the beautiful tiles were put on in 1900. It sells Wilson’s., a fine beer!

DSCF3065The old Central Station… now a venue for conferences and concerts. It was opened as a station  in 1880 and closed in 1969.

DSCF3072

DSCF3076These beautiful buildings tell of Manchester’s industrial heritage, factories or warehouses, I’m not sure, but fortunes were made… probably off the backs of the workersDSCF3083Typical Manchester back alley

DSCF3087Mancunian humour… Manchipster Plaice! Guess what it sells!

DSCF3082Which way to the Mavericks, Mr Gladstone? “That way!”