The House of a Famous Character

This year, we spent our holidays in the Lake District in North West England. The plans was to go for hikes, which we had practiced for the last couple of weeks. Taking a 16-month-old with us was a bit of a gamble. We had no idea what his reaction would be to sleeping in a tent; we expected the walking part to be fine, since he did not mind the walks we had done so far.

One of the walks we set out for would go through a hamlet called Watendlath. A place where we not only could enjoy a lovely cream tea in the teahouse, but also visit the farm where Judith Parish lived. The house has a plaque and everything. The name did not ring any bells. Luckily, the description of the walk informed us who this illustrious person was. A famous character from a best seller in the 1930s.By not available (Hampshire Bookshop Collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1920s, writer Hugh Walpole moved to the Lake District. Walpole was a famous writer in his time, he wrote countless books between 1909 and his death in 1941, an average of one book per year. An impressive feat that critics used against him, they considered his work outdated and described Walpole as “a sentimental ego” and “workmanlike writer who was not much appreciated among other writers”.  In 1921, he settled in Keswick, Cumbria, where he wrote The Herries Chronicles – a series set in the Lake District. Read More


The World’s Most Mysterious Book

Some time ago, I signed up for TED talks, as a fun and somewhat time saving way to learn new things. It’s certainly  fun, although I haven’t watched as many videos as I’d like. Despite the videos not being too long, it’s rather hard to sit down and view them on a regular basis, what with a child and all. But last week, my interest was triggered again.

‘The World’s Most Mysterious Book’ — now how could I ignore this video? It describes the Voynich Codex, a peculiar book from the fifteenth century that still keeps scientists puzzled.

After watching the video I searched the internet and found the following website that shows scans of the individual pages.

The Voynich Codex is shrouded in mystery simply because we do not have an inkling on what it is about. It makes me curious whether the author has made it all up to confuse people back in those days. Perhaps the language was created like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish, which might confuse future scientists just as much if all they have is a single text without any context whatsoever. Whatever the reason might have been, it is fun to fantasize about its origins.

Cecile Koster

Reflection: The Image of the Writer

Annie M.G. Schmidt (1984)The Dutch poet, writer and songwriter Annie M.G. Schmidt wrote a lovely song called “Alleen uit Leed wordt Kunst Geboren” meaning Only from Suffering Art is Born.  The protagonist laments that only artists who experienced personal hardship can become true artists.  And that is something she is still missing, according to her teacher.  Her teacher compares the protagonist’s life with that of composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Haydn and Mozart, and concludes that her student’s life lacks tragedy.  Since her voice lacks sorrow, she will not be assigned solos.

The idea that artists need hardship seems to apply to writers too.  Writers are often depicted as unhealthy beings; hermits, who drink and smoke; who are on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown; who seemed to have lost their marbles; but who after going through their personal hell, deliver their long awaited Master Piece.  (And not just any masterpiece, but The Master Piece of the century.)

433ea4fbba5a2767a59f8f839cda4b63Luckily, this image is being adjusted.  But there is also the impression of writers who sit in avant-garde coffee shops or bistros, drinking fancy coffees or some Boba tea, observing potential characters, while typing away on their laptops.

Is it false?  No, probably not.  There are always examples to be found that fit the image.  Only it seems unfair to claim that all writers live in their own little world, estranged from every-day-life.  (Perhaps it is something some of us would like to achieve.)  But the examples above have nothing to do with writing; they depict certain lifestyles that could be associated with writers. Read More

Things You Can Do to Books Besides Reading Them

Like most fellow book readers, my read books end up on my bookcase waiting there to be reread again.  Yet there’s always this small pile of books that I don;t plan on rereading, and that no one wants.  I’ve had friends browse through them; I’ve posted them on the Dutch version of Amazon – Marktplaats – but without any luck; I’ve even tried the secondhand bookshop and they didn’t want them.  They did offer their bin to dispose of them, but that was just too big a step to take.   Now they’re waiting in a huge blue bag underneath the bed, for their final destination, whatever that may be.

So what to do with books that are no longer wanted?  I shouldn’t have been surprised, yet I was, when I learned that there’s a whole arsenal of possibilities. Read More

Alternative Bookcases

Wandering around is something I do a lot in cities or gardens, but also on the internet.  I start out by looking for specific information, like a suitable name, and if I like it, I check what kind of associations there are.  I open a new screen and see what kind of hits I get searching on the name.  Before I can help myself, I’m reading myths, etymologies, dictionary entries… until I find myself taking quizzes on words no-one is very likely going to use.

Today, my search had to do with books; so for a change, I hadn’t been redirected to countless unrelated topics.  Although I wasn’t particularly looking for alternative bookcases, some caught my attention and I wanted to share them.

My favourites:

1) Invisible bookcase 1

Designer: Professor Neil Barron

This one can actually be purchased. Read More

Holiday Dilemma

My faithful tentEach year, I face the challenge of packing the little red Toyota with the bare necessities and the other, apparently useful, objects for camping: sleeping bags, kitchen utilities, a tent, folding chairs and a change of clothes.

This year, however, the plans are slightly different.  The trip to Ireland involves an airplane and that causes some restrictions in my preparations.  The plan is to go to Ireland, rent a small camper van and travel around for a week or two.

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Friday the 13th

©Bonnybxx @ pixabay.comThis year there are three Friday the 13ths.  The first one was in February, the second is today and the third will be in November.  Three Fridays to avoid ladders, black cats, breaking mirrors (that’s generally a good idea), and opening umbrellas while being indoors.  The list of things that are best to be postponed is long, depending on how serious you take it.

Jeopardizing the Future

The superstition about umbrellas is one I enjoy in particular.  They’re handy objects on rainy days, but they can bring some bad luck, too, by opening them indoors, or picking them up after dropping them.  And apparently, umbrellas aren’t gift material either.  (I wonder if I should be worried. I ended up with one at my wedding.  Although I’m not sure it was actually a gift; it was in a plastic wrapper, but not wrapped as a gift.)

Another one I should have known before getting married is that as a single woman you should never drop your umbrella, the chances of getting married in the future will be in jeopardy.  It’s an interesting take for  a story.

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