Posts Tagged ‘violas’

Sebastian Barry’s “Days Without End” and Spring flowers (1)

March 17, 2017

It’s not often that you come across a novel that is absolutely riveting and makes you want to write down a quote from every page of the book, but the new novel by Sebastian Barry –  Days Without End comes into this category. You can listen to an excellent Guardian podcast featuring an interview with Barry about his novel and this adds further insight into the book. The novel tells the story of Thomas McNulty, who was among thousands who fled from Ireland when the potato famine struck. McNulty briefly tells us of his arrival in Canada on a ship where “I was among the destitute, the ruined and the starving for six weeks”. The Irish who reached Canada “were nothing. No one wanted us… We were a plague. We were only rats of people”. When McNulty subsequently meets a fellow teenager “handsome John Cole” who becomes his life-long friend and lover, he tells us “I was a human louse, even evil people shunned me”. This feeling of McNulty’s – that he and his kind are worthless – continues throughout the book, and McNulty explains that his and John Cole’s ability to withstand the horrors they see, comes partly from this. The book tells of the boys’ and subsequently men’s lives as dancers dressed up as women to entertain miners, then as soldiers engaged in “cleansing” the frontier of Indians and then as regular soldiers in the American Civil.

Barry’s writing is described by reviewers of the book as “vibrant”, “beautiful and affecting”, “exhilarating” and “vivid”. He is one of these writers with an enviable ability to produce descriptions that make your read them again. Open the book anywhere and you’ll find them. The soldiers eat with “the strange fabric of frost and frozen wind falling on our shoulders”. Other soldiers, sent out to meet an Indian chief and his followers “rode like chaps expecting Death rather than Christmas”. There are detailed battle scenes in the book, but also moments of tenderness and humour. Barry does not shrink from describing mass killing – of Indian men, women and children and of rebel soldiers – but he manages to focus on the personal. In the heat of the battle with the rebels, McNulty reflects “Other things I see is how thin these boys [rebels] are, how strange like ghosts and ghouls. Their eyes like twenty thousand dirty stones”. I am two-thirds through this astonishing novel already and I know that when I get near the end, I’ll want it to continue for another 300 pages. Go and buy it.

 

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Sebastian Barry’s stunning novel

Spring really has sprung around here and there is now an abundance of colour in my garden, with much more to come. The first photo is of a tulip from a vase in the house – my own tulips are biding their time, letting the daffodils have their spot in the sunlight, before they upstage them with a glorious display of colour. As readers of this blog will know, what fascinates me in particular is the insides of flowers and their often surreal appearance. I love the symmetry in this tulip as well as the vibrant colours and the central feature, which could be a creature from a sci-fi film or something inexplicable found by archaeologists in a 3000 year old grave. What do you see here?

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Close up of a tulip flower head (Click to enlarge)

The 2nd photo is of violas on the side of our hanging basket at the front door. The cyclamen in the body of the hanging basket has passed its best. The violas, planted last autumn wore plain green coats all winter and shrivelled in the frost at times. In the past 2 weeks however, they are transformed and show us purple and yellow dresses in a display of sartorial elegance. They are delicate little flowers but have eye-catching, mascara like centre patterns. As the title of this blog post indicates, there will be more Spring flowers to follow.

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Violas in a hanging basket

 

 

A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Violet

February 13, 2014

Here are my suggestions for this week’s challenge. See many more at Sue’s website.

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

Summer sky from the back of my house in Dunbar

Summer sky from the back of my house in Dunbar

 

Gladiolus flowers

Gladiolus flowers

 

Salpiglossis

Salpiglossis

 

Violas

Violas

 

Bordersnakes, waves and autumnal planting

October 18, 2013

I’ve just finished reading the late James Crumley’s novel Bordersnakes. If you don’t like reading hardboiled novels, where the “heroes” are  just a bit less mean and violent than the baddies, then you won’t like this. Given to me by my brother-in-law Tom, an eclectic reader and a  Crumley aficionado, Bordersnakes is a rollercoaster ride set in Texas and Mexico. Milo and Sughrue are the good guys. However, as the  review notes “Of course, “good guys” is a relative term. A scuzzier pair of hard-drinking, dope-smoking, trash-talking testosterone-overdose cases than Sughrue and Milo would be hard to imagine”. The dialogue is what makes this book. It is often laden with expletives and very funny e.g. Milo threatens a baddie, saying that if he ever threatens MIlo or Sughrue again, “I will kill you, your family, and everyone you ever said hello to”. OK – not everyone’s sense of humour but if like me, you haven’t come across Crumley before, and like this style, he’s a very entertaining read. The plot is fairly straightforward but new characters appear constantly and there are some unlikely coincidences, but it’s very well written and a sheer pleasure.

This week, the tides have been high at the back of our house, with lines of waves relentlessly streaming towards the shore. Waves are  fascinating to look at e.g. you stand on the small promenade and try to pick the big wave, which will hit the sea wall hardest, or you watch the waves ripple along the wall until they exhaust themselves, and fall flat. There’s also a fascination of watching the waves retreating after hitting the promenade and often depositing stones and/or seaweed there. That you wave you picked as the big one, is whacked by the outgoing wave and produces a huge, airborne mass of water (see Photo 1). Then there’s the wave that you underestimate and hits the wall with a huge slap and turns itself into a whirligig of water (see Photo 2). Lastly, there’s the noise of the waves when you are close to them. Thomas Hardy wrote that the waves were “engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say”, and the sound of the waves can seem to be a thousand voices all talking at once.

It’s changeover time in my garden. Out go the withering summer flowers and, from under the table in my garage, out come the daffodil, tulip and crocus bulbs which have, unlike animals in this country, been hibernating all summer. In addition, I’ve bought pansies and violas, which both provide an extravagant show of colour for this time of year (see Photos 3 and 4 for close-up shots). One aspect which is fascinating about these winter plants is that, when the hard frosts arrive (later rather than sooner I hope), the pansies and violas curl up into themselves and wait for warmth to return.

Two waves crashing

s Two waves crashing

Launching wave

Launching wave

Vibrant violas

Vibrant violas

Multi coloured pansy head

Multi coloured pansy head