Monday, June 03, 2013


a brief hiatus

Life, it's what's happening.  I have been overtaken by events lately and this blog will have to be set aside for a few weeks, I'm afraid.  Fear not, I will return.  Until then, some local signage, dear to my heart: 

Our small-town book sale happened last weekend - actually it was the annual book, plant, and bake sale, a fundraiser for the library.  In the manner of such things, the event was unusually wonderful in unpredictable ways.  I began by digging extra chives out of our garden early in the morning (let them go to seed last year... shouldn't have...), potting them up, and donating them to the plant sale, while hoping that the resulting karma would aid me at the book sale.  This self-serving ploy seems to have worked in my favor.  Books were plentiful and priced at a dollar and fifty cents each, with a very few new novels priced at two dollars each (nothing there for me), and I came away with a huge box and two bags full of books for under fifty bucks in total.  Nothing rare or particularly valuable, but a good stack of reading material and plenty to (attempt to) sell.  My favorite acquisition is a British softcover, a memoir entitled No Voice from the Hall: Early Memories of a Country House Snooper by the fascinating John Harris (John Murray 1998).  How to resist a title like that!  I couldn't.  And I didn't even try.  I'm now halfway into the book, and it is gently, sadly, enthralling.  It begins with this sentence, and if you like it, you will surely love what follows:

"This is a tale of abandoned country houses, but also a personal odyssey of my experiences as an aspiring architectural historian, fishing and youth-hostelling my way around England after 1946."

The book has it all - ruins explored as a young man and lovingly remembered much later in life, country house auctions and antiques dealers, meetings with mentors in his future field of endeavor, a rapscallion uncle, description of England's post-war malaise, deep appreciation of beauty and pathos - what's not to love.

The bake sale was fine too.  I resisted the rhubarb pies but did buy some molasses cookies and a few orange brownies.  The library volunteers are excellent bakers, I am happy to report.

Until next time, friends.

"No Voice from the Hall" is one of the best of John Harris's many enjoyable books. That book has a sequel: "Echoing Voices: More Memories of a Country House Snooper," which is also fantastic. Those two books remind me of "Prophesying Peace" by James Lees-Milne in which JLM describes almost single-handedly saving many British country houses and other architectural treasures during his work for the newly-formed National Trust.
If you love John Harris, keep an eye out for two of his other books: "The Artist and the Country House" and "Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvages." After reading about neglect and ruin(however fascinating), it is reassuring to read about the visual depiction of the English Country house in its heyday as well as the reincarnation of bits and pieces of them.
Enjoy your break from blogging. You will be missed!
I am so pleased to hear that he wrote a sequel! Totally thrilling! I haven't yet read all of James Lees-Milne, still don't have all his diaries, so I see I have a lot to look forward to, in life... Thank you for the other John Harris recommendations, too, they sound wonderful. All good news, frankly needed at the moment. Much appreciated.
Best of luck.
As June winds down, I hope all is well.
Hi Dan, thank you for checking in. Life is once again on an even keel but still very full at the moment! I will return to writing here soon. I wish I could say I'd read all kinds of wonderful books over the past few weeks. But no...
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