Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Nature's bounty

Everything back to normal after the floods, at least in this bit of West Oxfordshire - many other people not so lucky, I know. I have been head down, writing away all week or re-reading and plotting. Apart from one trip to London - see below.

But it's hard now that summer has at last arrived; there is a strong pull towards the garden swing seat, which must be resisted. I can't work out of doors because I can't see the screen on my laptop properly. Today, Sunday, it is gloriously hot and we've been harvesting plums from our little orchard. Seventeen pounds of them so far and it's only one tree - help! There are a lot motre to come. So, plum crumble, pie, jam etc. And we have a lot of damsons which look as if they'll be ripe to pick next weekend.

We mustn't hang about as we did with the cherries. We have one tree which we thought was another apple, which surprised us all in July by being hung with dark red, almost black, morello-type cherries. We didn't pick them one weekend, being preoccupied with blackcurrants and raspberries, but by the next weekend, when I was in Florence, they they all gone, every single one. Birds are suspected, which I would rather believe than marauding locals.

I saw Italian paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque at the Queen's Gallery by Buckingham Palace. Actually, the best piece by far and an old friend to greet with cries of delight was the exquisite little wooden triptych, which I saw (twice) at the Duccio exhibition in Siena 2003/2004. So neither renaissance nor Baroque. But it was also good to see the Artemisia Gentilleschi self-portrait while painting and compare it with a piece by her father Orazio, which was quite competent but no more. Apart from these, it was very much the B list, we thought. Still the Duccio is worth the admission price.

I finished reading Rose Tremain's Restoration and really enjoyed it. I didn't really understand the ending, after two reads but it did seem redemptive and her prose was always interesting. It was a bold choice to have a hero who was not at all physically or morally attractive.

I read the prize-winning Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, which has Sigmund Freud involved (marginally) in a murder investigation on his one trip to the US in 1909. It purports to explain why Freud never returned and throws in his realtionship with Jung, the Oedipus complex and Shakespeare scholarship. But what a farrago of far-fetchedness! And all for far-fetchedness' sake, it seemed to me.


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