Home Is Where The Books Are

Reading & Writing

It turns out people aren’t comfortable just being with themselves.

Blaise Pascal said, ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,’ and the figures back him up. 95% of adults say they found time for a leisure activity in the previous 24 hours, but 83% said they’d spent no time just thinking.

The young, in particular, are not enjoying human interaction. Direct phone calls are in decline, with texts and emails preferred. On one call I had recently, the caller explained that he would be more comfortable if a series of topics under discussion could be prearranged and approved in advance. No wonder the birth rate is falling.

Like the rest of Europe, we’ve learned to spend more time at home these past two years. And this turns out to be a pretty good thing. It’s wonderful to sit quietly in a room you love. I live open-plan so there are technically no rooms, but we have the vista of London before us. The Shard is pulsing with coloured LEDs, the dome of St Pauls’ has a low, soft blue light, the London Eye is red and purple tonight and the Telecom Tower (I’m sorry, it will only ever be the Post Office Tower to me) is sending neon messages around its crown.

After my cancer prognosis I thought to myself; is there anywhere you especially want to go? The Hermitage, I decided, and South America, but these are closed off or beyond reach right now. After that? I live inside myself, in my word-world, so being surrounded by the books I love is the ideal way to feel calm.

There’s no feeling like two of you sitting in companionable silence reading. Or just one of you.

Although I have to get rid of the creepy stalking geese first. They stare at me and bang on the glass and are still there in the middle of the night.

So I’m by my bookcases reading and reading.

I’m reading ‘Smallbone Deceased’ by Michael Gilbert, far more interesting about working in law than about a murderer on the loose.

I’m tackling ‘Under The Volcano’ by Malcolm Lowry for the third time, and this time I hope to reach the summit.

I’m enjoying Jas Treadwell’s ‘The Infernal Riddle of Thomas Peach’, where nothing is as it appears.

I’m zipping through ‘Fabulous Monsters’ by Alberto Manguel, about imaginary characters leading their own lives.

And I’m a very happy chap.

Photo Guide:

  1. ‘Hot Water’ ARCs arrive!
  2. Colour-changing Christmas thing appears in square.
  3. Geese seek new victim to torment.
  4. Still tormenting at 2:00am.

28 comments on “Home Is Where The Books Are”

  1. Jo W says:

    I started to read Michael Gilbert books a few years ago and have been steadily enjoying them, when I can track down old copies on line.
    A small point, Chris, don’t you think that it’s not you that those Egyptian geese are stalking, but their reflections? You could name them Arthur and Janice?

  2. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I was going to say you should get a cat until I saw our cat on the windowsill attempting to get a squirrel on the outside windowsill. The squirrel took no notice at all.

  3. Stu-I-Am says:

    About those aggressive Egyptian geese: magpies are the supposedly the only birds who can recognize their own reflections, so it may be that they are engaging in some kind of territorial behaviour — or find your book-filled habitat as inviting as you do. Typically the application of UV-reflecting tapes, decals or liquids (which birds can see but we can’t) applied to the exterior of windows often helps with this kind of behaviour, assuming of course you have access to the exterior. From the photos it looks as if the window in question may be fixed which would mean you would presumably have to get your window cleaner to apply the deterrent material. Or you could simply slap a picture of a roast goose on the window — though they may not take the hint since they are technically ducks in goose clothing.

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    Interesting that while Freud linked solitude to anxiety and society in general still usually stigmatizes it, behavioural scientists are increasingly considering it as something which, when pursued by choice, can prove therapeutic.

  5. Paul+C says:

    The Treadwell book looks great – I’ll try that one, thanks.

    I’m reading The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell – the true story of a UK geography student who robbed banks and gave the all the banknotes (which he intialled RH for Robin Hood) to the poor. Brilliant book so far.

    I suppose one of us demented fans could now triangulate the location of your eyrie and track you down. Take care….

  6. Joan says:

    I find your Geese fascinating, are they really Egyptian Geese, just like in the tomb paintings? All we ever see in Southern Ontario is Canada Geese, and they are everywhere, in the skies, in the parks and even nesting on concrete islands in parking lots. Tiresome large birds at best.

  7. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Joan Yes, the very same geese revered by the Ancient Egyptians and which show up in the tomb paintings you mention They, in turn, first showed up in Britain as ornamental waterfowl and then escaped into the wild and became prolific feral breeders. They expanded well beyond their original Norfolk breeding ground, thanks in no small part to climate warming since they nest in the winter.

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    I’ve pre-ordered Hot Water, Amazon were going to stop visa cards, sadly they aren’t going to so my bank balance is still in danger especially after the heavy hit from this month.

    Think of your windows as a giant budgie mirror, no wonder budgies didn’t live long in cages with brain damage from headbutts and a constant worry they would lose their territory, but we all know better now.

    I know we were meant to stay away from politics but mad Boris is to pretend Covid doesn’t matter even though the death rate is high, I wonder if he’s interested in the new latest invisible wallpaper,I know a red-wall MP we can get it from, honest. The things that man will do to keep his back-benchers happy. At least he won’t be breaking lock down rules in future.

    Wayne.

  9. Helen+Martin says:

    Goodie, now I don’t have to go so far back to look at my favourite geese. You have to admit they are elegant looking, as in “ornamental waterfowl”.
    Are the Canada geese around even in all that snow, Joan?
    I tried Under the Volcano (local reference you know) but hardly got into it at all.
    I have the polari book on hold – should be available today or tomorrow.
    I just finished The Glorious Guinness Girls. (Emily Hourican – hist. fict.) If you had a house in London and in the English countryside the Troubles didn’t have to touch you at all. It was okay.
    The Unusual Suspect sounds good so I’ll check for that one, too. Our library is proving as great a resource as any taxpayer would want. (We used to be told that it was the most heavily used library in Canada and not just by the homeless staying in out of the wet and cold.)

  10. Debra Matheney says:

    Best part of the blog. “I am a very happy chap.”

    I have three indoor cats that the birds love to torture, flying into the windows, lollygagging about the bushes or sitting on patio furniture near windows. My favorite fowl visitation was waking to a rooster in the backyard. He hung around for 2 days. Birdsong has been a great comfort during Covid.

    Here’s to more happy days for you.

  11. Ed+DesCamp says:

    I’m surprised that no one twigged that those are members of Stumpy the Pigeon’s posse, haunting the author’s lair to protest Stumpy’ untimely demise. Naughty naughty..

  12. Helen+Martin says:

    One comment in the Wikipedia post on the Egyptian Geese, which are obviously very adaptable, is that since they are classified as an alien specie you don’t have to have a special license to shoot them. Slingshots (catapults) are not always classified as weapons so you might be able to deter the geese with one. They probably are not recognising themselves in your windows but surely they should be asleep at 2am, unless they’re nesting. They have rather a silly quack sound but if they are nesting then the female will quack constantly if disturbed so you might want to check on any plant pots or sheltered areas before laying in pellets for a sling.

  13. Paul+C says:

    Is the news on the geese genuine or just propergander ?

  14. Wayne Mook says:

    Ei-der-down know about that Paul.

    Ducks out of the way to get coat, I know it’s a fowl joke.

    I was wondering is it your Fowler genes that attract birds, as in the name means you did catch/hunt them. Or maybe they are the descendants of birds caught by your ancestors and have come to haunt you as part as an age old curse by an Egyptian Goose Mummy?

    Wayne.

  15. Alan R says:

    A report produced recently in Cape Town, South Africa advised golf courses on what action they should take to address the serious “Egyptian Geese Problem” on fairways. You may find this of some help.

    “The geese seem to harass other bird species on the course and that, along with their excrement, seem to be two of the main perceived problems

    ”In the past, golf courses have implemented a range of control measures, which included chasing geese with dogs and remote-controlled vehicles, culling the birds by shooting them, destroying their eggs and nests, and relocating the geese to other parts of the province”.

    I can’t seem to be able to shake off the vision of Captain Mainwaring and his boys attempting to carry out these very seriousness tasks. With the encouragement of a Benny Hill soundtrack driving them on.

    We also have two Geese who hang around on the golf course at the bottom of our garden. We call them Dave.

  16. Helen+Martin says:

    There was an attempt here to reduce Canada geese numbers by addling the eggs. If you destroy the eggs the female will likely lay another clutch so addling them by shaking in the very early days means they won’t hatch. I haven’t heard much about that lately so perhaps it was too difficult to do effectively.

  17. Ian Luck says:

    Is there not a completely disgusting French delicacy called, I believe, ‘Caca D’Oie’, which is literally, goose turds? Probably from force fed geese. Along with the sausage featuring the pig’s anal sphincter at the end of the skin, and the Fieldfare, these are gourmet/glutton foods I am in no hurry to try. Oh, and I hate geese. Anserine bastards.

  18. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Helen+Martin Helen — Since upwards of 500,000 Canada Geese are taken in Canada each year by hunters, it is probably the government boffins who suggested it who are the ‘addled.’

  19. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Ian Luck Ian — While I wouldn’t put it past a people who decided snails and frogs legs — to say nothing of whole songbirds (save beak) — were delicacies, I believe ‘Caca D’Oie’ is one of those ‘down-to-earth’ French descriptions,in this case for the colour ‘greenish-yellow’ or ‘yellowish-green’ — the colour of goose poo — rather than a goose-related (or perhaps more appropriately, ‘excreted’) foodstuff.

  20. Apparently birds aren’t real and are spy cameras in disguise… sounds like your camera operators aren’t very good at the whole suBtle part of spying.

  21. My husband would like to know if you have tried letting them in or talking to them. Maybe they are just goosey fans wanting an autograph, or they just want to keep you company.

  22. Helen+Martin says:

    Stu, it was Parks Boards here in Greater Vancouver who suggested egg addling because the birds had multiplied to the point where walking on the grass in Stanley Park was a danger to footwear and small children were often threatened by geese bigger than they were. Not sure where the situation is now.

  23. Helen+Martin says:

    The Polari book and the Unusual Suspect have both arrived. Fabulosa is indeed fabulous and my geographer husband is starting on the modern day outlaw. Thanks for the recommendations.

  24. Gary Locke says:

    My wife and I spend hours together (and yet not) just reading quietly. Sometimes classical music will be playing, but just as often there’s nothing but the tick of our large wall clock and whatever the hell the cats are up to. I know that some people think that we must be insane to exist in such quietude. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  25. Liz+Thompson says:

    Fabulosa is indeed a wonderful book, and Paul Baker has just written an account of the whole horrid tale of Section 28 in the UK. If you whizz across to Reaktion Books who published it, they currently have a very good discount offer that made it £4 cheaper than Amazon!
    I have pre-ordered Hot Water. I actually checked on Amazon your list of available books, and I’m still reeling from how many there are!

  26. Paul+C says:

    Will have a look at Fabulosa when I find my oglefakes

  27. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – glad to be of assistance.

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