Friday, September 29, 2006

Borrowing Books: My local library

This is a photo of one of the rooms in the library where I borrow most of the books I read. It's called Bromley House Library and it stands smack bang in Nottingham's busy city centre. You'd never guess it was there from the outside. The ground floor entrance way is bracketed by two shops that pay rent to the library for the premises. The library itself is situated on the floors above, but has a ground floor back entrance to a wonderful 'secret' garden.The library is a grade II listed building, originally built in 1752, and has been a library since 1822.
It's not public, but subscription but at £50.00 a year - less than £1.00 a week, it hardly breaks the bank and it's well worth the fee to be a member of such a wonderful place. It houses a collection of over 35,000 books, ranging from rare manuscripts and tomes (a herbal of 1597 for e.g.) to the latest bestsellers. Daily papers and a selection of magazines (such as History Today and National Geographic) are available to the members. A grandfather clock ticks quietly in a corner. There are comfortable chairs dotted about in strategic corners and thoughtfully placed reading lamps. Even a pair of binoculars for bird-watching in the garden. Proper tea and coffee out of proper china cups is always available. The staff have time to talk. The books to be borrowed are recorded hand-written in ledgers. Computers do exist, but they are discreetly tucked away behind a screen and are only used in an administrative capacity. No one comes to Bromley house to faff about on a PC. They come for what a library should truly be about - choosing and borrowing books, or studying them in a tranquil, unhurried 'respectful' atmosphere that reaches out and welcomes you from the moment you walk through the doors.

As to my borrowing habits. The library is where I suss out new authors whom I might buy if I like them enough. I tend to borrow thrillers because I know that they're unlikely to be keepers. Novels by the likes of Lee Child are great reads, but fodder for one consumption only, so the library is great for feeding that particular habit. I choose books for my husband there. Working full time he can't get to the library himself, so I bring him a selection. Some are hits, some are misses. He's just dumped the latest Flashman, declaring it a 'same old same old,' but is currently reading Memoirs of A Geisha and is deeply engrossed.
When reading, I mentally score books. Any author achieving between 9 and 10 out of 10 are put on my autobuy list. Thrillers and authors scoring between 6 and 8 out of 10 will go onto my library list i.e. I like them but not enough to be keepers. Less than a 6 and I put it down to experience! On a good week these days I probably read around 2 novels. A bad week and it's 1 or less than 1 depending on size. The last library book I read was Daisy Faye and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg - 8 out of 10.
So, what's your local library like and how much do you use it/what are your borrowing habits?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Scarlet Lion cover

I'm dropping by on the run as life continues at a hectic pace, but I just wanted to post the fabulous cover for The Scarlet Lion, due out in hardcover in December. It hasn't been without its traumas. An earlier cover draft was scrapped due to a hissy fit by me the author who felt that putting a sulky teenage heroine on the front, admiring her party dress was not a good representation of the powerful, mature Isabelle de Clare, wife, helpmeet and consort of the great William Marshal.
This one's a strong improvement. It's not entirely historically accurate, but the fabric's a good match and the general feel is much better and will appeal to booksellers. One gets the impression of a strong woman from the composition plus there's a nod to William in the embroidery behind her.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to my roots!

This is a photo of our first white carrots, planted earlier this year from a packet of heritage seeds.
Carrots in the early Medieval period were apparently this colour rather than the bright orange ones we see today which are a much later development - Dutch 17thC without looking it up, so don't quote me on that, but definitely not medieval. I cooked them this evening as on ordinary veg along with some standard orange carrots and the flavour was excellent. My husband, the grower, also assures me that the white carrots were more slug resistant than the orange. Now I've got my paws on the crop I'm going to embark on cooking some medieval recipes with them, including fritters and a stew in which the carrot goes in near the end along with crushed coriander seeds.
Ever since we've been married - 27 years now - we've always had an allottment and grown our own fruit and veg. Even when it wasn't fashionable to grow your own and be organic, we were. We're self sufficient for most of the year in potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, beetroot, peas, parsnip, broccoli, beans (broad, runner and French), leeks, brussels sprouts and cabbage. We're also self sufficient in a wide variety of soft fruits - plums, cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants. We have two bramley apple trees, a golden delicious, a 'mystery tree' (husband can't remember but reckons it's a cox crossed with something else and the apple can be either an eater or a cooker) and a greengage. We grow tomatoes in the greenhouse, which also harbours a very productive grape vine. It's wonderful to have our own produce. We know what's gone on it and into it. The taste is fantastic when compared to supermarket fare and it's ecologically sound in terms of the travelling it does. Of course the picking and freezing makes for a lot of work, but once everything is frozen and stored, it's there for the use of throughout the year and all the slicing, podding and chopping makes a good occasion for family bonding sessions! Cultivating one's own produce definitely give one a feel for the rhythm of the seasons and keeps one in touch with the land and literally one's roots!