What next

I’ve retired from teaching again – this time from supply work rather than a permanent post. It was all just too “Groundhog Day” for my liking (been there, done that, have the tee-shirt). Hopefully, while job hunting, I’ll be able to begin regular posting again and reboot the music and iBook work.



Terry Pratchett

Crivens! It was “Wintersmith” what done it!

Photograph of the cover of Terry Pratchett’s “Wintersmith”. Illustration by Paul Kidby copyright 2006.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m late to the joyous party that is the writings of Terry Pratchett. I’ve just completed reading his third Tiffany Aching novel and he has leapt into  the distinguished company that is my favourite authors. Notably, he is the first male author I have included. He sits with Rosemary Sutcliff, Philipa Pearce, Joan Aiken and Ursula K Le Guin (as I said – ‘distinguished company‘).

Like Le Guin, Pratchett is able to stage epic battles that are fought and won without bloodshed or with very little bloodshed (the way that Tiffany Aching deals with the Wintersmith is a fine example) and he writes about the finiteness of human existence with rare beauty and a certain kind of poetry (the passing of Granny Weatherwax in “The Shepherd’s Crown” is beyond simply moving). And he loves people but hates injustice, that is crystal clear.

Tiffany Aching is a heroine very much in the mould of Joan Aiken’s Dido Twite though far more introspective with her first, second and third thoughts to guide how she acts and reacts. As a Pratchett witch, she constantly puts the welfare of others before her own and strives to learn from each action she takes, often putting aside a response until she has considered alternatives . My kind of protagonist!

Of course, TP spins the narrative with many puns asides and much social commentary. I love the way has footnotes augment the main text.- my particular favourite is *’Werk’… (page 340 of my edition). He has the uncommon ability to create characters that are engaging and complex and this is true equally of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

I’m continually struck by the cinematic and visual quality of Pratchett’s storytelling. He must have imagined these novels as moving pictures, surely!

I have two more Tiffany Aching novels to read – the second and the fourth and then it’s back to the main Discworld novels for me!

But first… I shall treat myself to a reread of “Wee free Men” and “Wintersmith”… you can’t have too much of a good thing.




Captain Grose

My copy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dictionary-Vulgar-Tongue-Francis-Grose/dp/1482340046 finally arrived from an eBay purchase today and some of it certainly is vulgar – more vulgar than I anticipated. I think it will be an excellent resources (for what I’m not sure). I’m just waiting for “Limbo Lodge” to arrive so that I might continue with the “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” series by Joan Aiken. However, I am content with “Midnight is a Place” also by Joan Aiken at the moment (though book marking is affecting my regular reading).


Added Sunday Nov 8th @ 08.07 a.m.: No “croopus” in this dictionary!

Oh croopus!

Night Birds have flown

I’ve just finished reading Joan Aiken’s “Night Birds on Nantucket”. It’s most definitely my favourite of the “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” sequence of books that I have so far read. It’s full of great escapist touches. It reminds me a little of John Masefield. Due to the marking of maths and language books, I don’t have time to post at length but there’s so much to love in the book – Dido Twite, Nate and his bird “Mr Jenkins”, the pink whale and Captain Casket and the “rum uns” who are on Nantucket to “do some skullduggery”.


I need to find a copy of “Limbo Lodge” next!

Update: As soon as I finished the initial post, I strolled over to Ebay and bought a copy.


Somewhat predictably, I ditched “Midnight is a Place” for the newly arrived “Night Birds on Nantucket”. Boy, was I glad that I did. For me, this narrative beats the somewhat outré character of “The stolen Lake”. Dido’s kindness towards Pen is moving (how is it that children’s fiction can elicit emotions so easily?) and her methods for drawing the other child out of her self-imposed solitude are typical of children’s books of this period. Modern books for children seem to have ditched this kind of subtlety for wind jokes and the like. I’m also filled with questions like “Who is the lady hidden below deck?” and “Is there an actual pink whale?” My only complaint is the way that Dido accepts the slaughter of the what without question. But, that is probably a reflection of my very modern morality. A child in James III / Victorian times would probably have had a more pragmatic attitude to what went on aboard a whaling ship.

This may turn out to be my most favourite Joan Aiken book thus far.




N.B. It was very difficult avoiding using the word “Croopus” somewhere in this post but I think that I managed it.

Croopus! It’s Night Birds on Nantucket!

Yes, my copy of “Night Birds on Nantucket” arrived this morning. But I’ve already begun “Midnight is a Place”. Now what to do next? Do I ditch “Midnight” and start “Night Birds” or do I wait to read the next Dido Twite adventure? It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things I know.

Back to school on Monday! My class will know the word “Croopus” before the morning is out 🙂

Re: https://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/croopus1/

Croopus! The Stolen Lake

I finished reading Joan Aiken’s novel “The Stolen Lake” this morning. I know that I’d promised to read “Midnight is a Place” first but the note to the reader at the start of the book said that the reader didn’t need to read either “Black Hearts in Battersea” or “Night Birds on Nantucket” to enjoy the story and I needed another Dido Twite adventure so I went ahead and read “The Stolen Lake” first.

There are so many unsavoury characters for Dido and her companions to overcome. I don’t want to give away too many plot details but the Queen is an absolute ogre, her dressmaker and the dressmaker’s assistants are monsters and Silver Taffy is utterly ruthless. But Bran and Mr Holystone are the sources of Dido’s strength at key moments. Bran in particular is enigmatic and resourceful.

The whole narrative is laced with Celtic (Welsh in this case) and Ancient Roman mythology and Arthurian legend (albeit twisted out of shape and in a melting pot) and at times I didn’t know whether it was appropriate to laugh or to cry. One comment from Dido made me laugh out loud (something that doesn’t happen often).

It’s grim in places and quite loopy in others but a thoroughly enjoyable romp none-the-less.

Joan Aiken wrote a wonderful story full of odd characters and clever observations and it’ll be even more enjoyable when I next read it again.