e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Out and about”

Tales for the month of May

This sounds like an interesting event. I regret that it’s too far for me but others may be closer. Thank you to ShortStops for publishing the details.

ShortStops

Come and listen to some tales of May madness, Mayans and a certain hairy rock star at Hand of Doom’s May-themed story nights in Kent.

They take place in Folkestone on Friday, May 19 at the Grand Hotel, The Leas, and the following evening, Saturday, May 20, in Faversham at The Guidhall, both from 7.45pm for an 8pm start.

For more information, please go to Facebook Hand of Doom Productions

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Some library snippets

manuscript from Wellcome collection

There is a world’s oldest library.

Now part of a university, it is the Al-Qarawiyyin library in Morocco.

Founded in 859CE by a lady called Fatima al-Fehri, it contains ancient and mediaeval manuscripts as well as books.

It has recently undergone a major restoration with special moisture management systems installed to protect the precious manuscripts.

Some libraries have birthdays.Birthday candles

Apparently the Library of Congress celebrated its birthday recently. On April 24th 1800 then president John Adams parented the library by approving the necessary expenditure. I doubt if it got a cake with 217 candles on it, but its anniversary was marked in several places, including a collection of trivia from Bookriot.

Some libraries use unique classification systems.

The Levinski Garden Library shelves its books according to the emotions they raise in their readers. Each reader is asked to describe the book’s effect: sad, happy, boring etc. The emotions are colour coded and the returned book gets a piece of coloured tape and is then shelved according to the most recent one.

Manuscript picture from Wellcome Library website
Candles photo credit: chrisotruro

Garden thoughts of Alexander Pope

A garden Pope would have likedAt school I was made to read The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, but since then have read none of his poetry and have barely remembered his existence.

Recently, however, I stumbled on an article on Pope the gardener in the blog Eighteenth Century Media. Apparently Pope was famous, not only as a poet, but also as a gardener, and friends and fans frequently asked his advice on major and minor aspects of gardening. He may have designed gardens; he certainly had things to say about them.

He favoured the classical style (modern in his day) in which there was a balance between nature and artifice, display and restraint, variety and simplicity. This balance was not just aesthetically pleasing but morally as well. Restraint and ‘consulting the genius of the place’ showed good taste and self control.

Among his writings are a number of Epistles written in verse. One of these, The Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, although about the use and abuse of riches, also contains a lot of advice on gardening. As a detailed  how-to of horticulture it might not be very useful but it’s aesthetics might be useful for any kind of design.

Oft have you hinted to your brother peer
A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
Something there is, more needful than expense,
And something previous even to taste – ’tis sense:

For those of us who don’t have a fortune to spend on our gardens, it’s comforting to think that all we need is sense, which is free.

Another piece of my ignorance discovered

By chance I stumbled on a Wikipedia article about Allah Jang Palsoe, an Indonesian stage play, dating from 1919, by Kwee Tek Hoay. The title translates as False God and is about two brothers who discover that money does not bring happiness.

Despite the fact that the original idea came from a short story by E. Phillips Oppenheim, a westerner, it is a truly Indonesian work and is still sometimes performed.

Reading the article I realised I know practically nothing about Indonesian theatre, or other literature. I have heard of the puppet theatre and have even seen extracts on TV, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I strongly suspect that Indonesians know much more about our theatre than we do about theirs: they may even read Shakespeare in school.

My ignorance probably extends to numerous theatrical traditions, and it seems such a pity to miss so much. Another topic to add to my ‘to be googled’ list.

Memories of Summer

p1000865

A coneflower displayed
its green and brown. Serenity
in a summer garden.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard and the world’s worst journey

I wish I was in Buxton to hear this talk. Thank you James Burt for reminding me that the ‘official’ history isn’t all there is.

Buxton International Festival

The Odditorium: the tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors whose obsessions changed the world (Hodder & Stoughton, 2016) includes some amazing characters. Some you’ll have heard of, some you probably won’t. All of them have changed the world, although in some cases the wider world hasn’t noticed yet. They include Joshua Norton, first Emperor of America, and Reginald Bray, who carried out strange experiments with the Royal Mail. I was delighted to be asked to write about Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who is by far my favourite explorer. 

When I was at school, we were often told stories about adventurers and explorers as something to aspire to. Captain Robert Falcon Scott was held up as a great example, bravely sacrificing himself in an attempt to reach the South Pole. As Sara Wheeler once described Antarctica, our southernmost continent often seems to be “a testing-ground for men with frozen beards to see how dead…

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The Poetry Periscope

The periscope

If you’re in Birmingham or Durham over the next couple of months, you should look out for this strange beast.

It’s a sound installation called Poetry Periscope and it’s on a UK tour. It started it’s journey in April as part of the European Literature Festival, and it’s still going – unwearied and cheery in its yellowness.

It plays 30 poems from 30 European cultures. Each is played in its own language and in English translation. To stand in a shopping mall or railway station and listen to all that may be a bit much, but perhaps the commute to work or shopping trip can be enhanced by a couple of the recordings.

In addition to the Festival, a number of organisations are involved with the project including European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), The Poetry Society and Pianos on the Street.

Travels of the imagination

1743363664.01.ZTZZZZZZBrowsing around the web I discovered a site called TripFiction, dedicated to reviewing books about places. The suggestion is that, if you have a trip planned, it’s a good idea to read stories set in that place before or during (or after for that matter) your visit.

I agree that this is a great and unstressful way of learning things about a place that you won’t learn from a guidebook. You’ll also learn about the author’s view of that place – does it matter if this colours your response when you actually arrive and see the real McCoy?

Guidebooks have their own appeal – they usually have the most enticing photographs. Only in children’s stories, like the Mr Chicken books, will you find pictures of your destination. I often browse the travel section in bookshops or libraries, just to imagine the journeys that I’ll quite likely never make – and in some cases wouldn’t want to.

Reading the reviews on TripFiction reminded me of another travel related site, Poetry Atlas which claims

everywhere on earth has a poem written about it

and gives numerous examples – some places, particularly the great cities, have huge numbers of poems about them.

 

Evening song

Bird on roof

 

The blackbird’s song flows
through an evening garden; today
ends musically.

From Mimi Matthews blog – Jane Eyre and the Legendary Gytrash

An excellent demon for your next horror story. And a literary one, with contacts in Jane Eyre and Harry Potter.

Mimi Matthews

Snarling dog from Darwin's Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)Snarling dog from Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.
(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)

According to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, a Gytrash is a goblin or spirit which takes the form of a horse, mule, or large dog.  Typically found in the North of England, the Gytrash “haunted solitary ways” and often surprised unwary travelers as they journeyed alone in the dusk.  Jane Eyre herself encounters what she believes to be a Gytrash one bleak, January evening as she is walking from Thornfield Hall to post a letter in the nearby village of Hay.  Alerted to its arrival by a loud, clattering noise, Jane observes:

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