Monday, 31 December 2007


The second tooth (lower incisor) duly made its appearance just before Christmas, followed, unexpectedly, by one of the upper second incisors. The one on the other side looks set to arrive too, so the Squirmle is going to look like a little vampire for New Year.

Finally finished The Fionavar Tapestry: definitely a good read. I don't get much time for LibraryThing now, but I'm plugging doggedly through the fairytale shelf (aka [N3e]). Our position peaked at No. 383, but it will take a mammoth effort to get back up there.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Squirming along

Crawling backwards a few inches at a time seems to be the peak of the Squirmle's locomotory skills at present, though he can also roll over and over at surprising speed. That second tooth still hasn't showed up.

Note to self: never take an infant on the Bakerloo line at rush hour...

No. 388 (3,150)!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Separation anxiety

Today is the Squirmle's first full day at Day Nursery. As this comes straight after his first two nights sleeping in a cot in his own room (instead of in a crib in our room), he is having a momentous time at the moment: not helped by his failure to shake off an annoying cough (which occasionally precipitates a monumental spew). The Squirmle seemed delighted on arrival at nursery; Mummy's separation anxieties were muted by the discovery that she could go back to bed again!

I hugely enjoyed reading G. G. Kay's The Summer Tree, and will try to review it on Library Thing before I have got too far through The Wandering Fire.

Recent LT position peaked at No. 393 (3,102 books).

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

I'll stop obsessing now

We have broken into the Top 400 largest libraries on LibraryThing, coming in this morning at No. 397 with 3,084 books catalogued. However, with other users frantically adding their books too, it has been like climbing a moving escalator. I shall therefore stop worrying about it now, and just accept that this may be the highest position we ever attain.

Friday, 16 November 2007


The offspring is no longer edentulous. The lower right incisor has made its appearance, and (as I found out while attempting to get the blighter to sleep) is quite sharp. Trying to establish good habits, we have already introduced the little blue toothbrush. The Squirmle's diet has now been boosted by almost atomically small amounts of apple, banana, carrot, cauliflower, and pear, rasped or sucked off a large lump with apparent enthusiasm (and some gagging). Oh, and part of a till receipt that Mummy left in the pram by mistake.

First visit to the day-nursery today went well: only a few tears, rapidly quelled by the application of food and a familiar muslin.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Licking apples

Most people probably have their first encounter with solid food while sitting in a high chair in the kitchen. The Squirmle is not most people: he decided to make his bid for Mummy's apple while we were visiting Castlerigg stone circle. He had a good lick. We tried him with a whole piece the other day, and he sucked it for a while before getting cross and spitting it out. He's mouthed a bit of cauliflower too.

The week at the in-laws was actually fine, and he went in a big cot for the first time without apparently noticing the difference. But he's waking a lot now, and we think he's got teeth on the way. Oh joy!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Spurts of growth and action

I got through a whole shelf of SF and fantasy last night, and we're up to No. 423 (2,922 books).

TinyBookworm seems to be having a "growth spurt": grumpy much of the time, refusing to nap (no change there), very unsettled last night, and today feeding like a sumo wrestler in training. Next week at the in-laws is not going to be a time of unalloyed joy and relaxation!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Many Dimensions

Finished Charles Williams's Many Dimensions last night. A most curious book, in which echoes of Chesterton struck me strongly, as well as what seems to me the clear influence of Williams's conversations with Owen Barfield on his character of Lord Arglay (who is interested in the parallels of law and poetic diction!). But Arglay is also, in his bizarre intimate yet non-sexual relationship with his much younger secretary, also very much Williams himself: aloof, hieratic, paternal to the point of patronizing like Ransom in That Hideous Strength. Lewis is surely also in debt to Williams's Sir Giles Tumulty for many aspects of the suavely villainous Devine.

Rating on the Zeitgeist peaked at No. 443 (2,880 books), but will now slip until I get a chance to finish the bookcases in the back room. Last weekend was given over mostly to gardening: took out the less successful forsythia (too shaded) and moved the unhappy mahonia (not shaded enough) into its place, adding a stinking hellebore for good measure. Also stuck in some crocus and allium bulbs: fingers crossed for the spring.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

...and counting!

No. 476 (2,717)

Bought two books this lunchtime at the Oxfam shop, and added them immediately!

Autumn II

Grey mist below a grey sky, between green trees turning gold, and a Schubert song on the car radio. On leaving the car and cycling through the village, I catch the scent of smoke (a coal fire or woodsmoke, I am not sure which). That scent always fills me with an indefinable nostalgia. My grandparents' house in Hertfordshire smelled faintly of coal and smoke; it was always cold, the windows misty with condensation, and in the early morning I would lie and listen to the pigeons cooing in the trees along the road.

Last week I glanced out of the kitchen window just in time to see a small biplane loop the loop over the nearby airfield. So that made two happy people: the pilot in doing it, and me in watching.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Breaking the barrier

At some point in the last couple of weeks, my steady trickle of additions to LibraryThing has pushed us into the Top 500 libraries! This is less of a milestone than it would have been a couple of months ago, as the Zeitgeist page now lists the Top 1000 libraries; but it's gratifying, nevertheless, to know that we are as outstandingly book-mad as we thought we were! Our top ranking so far has been No. 483, though we may slip as others extend their catalogues. There are still five and a half bookcases to go, so our slow rise will continue whenever the relentless round of work, meals, and nappy changes lets me back to the computer for more than a couple of minutes.

Monday, 17 September 2007

What to do when your teddy gets carpet beetle?

A small brown beetle on the bed doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, it is. Last spring I spent hours finding and killing the dratted things in the kitchen, where they had bred everywhere: in bags of flour, in jars of pasta, and, most spectacularly, in a box of some kind of Scandinavian crispbread which had become a monstrous multi-storey apartment block for beetles. The little round holes looked unhappily familiar, and my local natural historian confirmed my suspicion that they were in fact furniture beetles (a.k.a. woodworm), who were apparently happy to stay out of the dining room table if they could drill through more amenable media such as boxes of dry foods. Fortunately the kitchen units were falling apart anyway, so we had it all ripped out and replaced (long story, tell you another time). The flour went into sturdy airtight containers. (I was slightly startled to find, some weeks later, that something had not only hatched but, in attempting to burrow out of the flour, had made visible mandible marks on the inside of the very tough plastic box.) I crossed my fingers and hoped that the beetles wouldn't just move on to eating the furniture.

So when a couple of small brown beetles showed up in the front bedroom, there was a scramble for the hoover and the spray-can of pyrethrum. Moved the bed, and crawled underneath it to look for holes. Nothing. Moved five months' worth of accumulated stuff (boxes of paper, discarded trousers, used emery boards, books half read in bed and forgotten about) and more than a millimeter of dust. Still no holes. Finally reached the basket containing "The Gang" - all the bears, rabbits, and other stuffed animals who survived the Big Cull when I moved out of home for the last time. Oh dear. Rabbit had holes, and one of the small bears was harbouring a live "woolly bear" larva. Almost certainly a carpet beetle rather than a woodworm, but unwelcome nevertheless.

After a complete inspection, most of the gang were bundled into the washing machine on the "Handwash: Wool" cycle, in the hope that they would survive the experience more or less intact. Rabbit, however, is made of felt, and has been leaking kapok for years. Reluctantly, I decided that this was one toy rabbit that would have to go the way of all real rabbits. I took a couple of photos of him, sittng on the lawn nibbling a freshly-pulled carrot, then tucked him under the forsythia to biodegrade*. He had been preceded only days earlier by Bengy the Bear, a hand-made glove-puppet bought at a jumble sale in the late 1960s and quarantined from the rest of the gang some years ago after he started to be moth-eaten. Bengy (nicknamed the blackcurrant bear, in unconvincing allusion to his charcoal grey colour) was laid under the blackcurrant bushes to return to nature. A decision is pending on what to do with a large knitted penguin, who is much too large simply to be deposited in the shrubbery.

A few small creatures were deemed of insufficient sentimental value to keep, so (at the inspired suggestion of my mother-in-law) they are at present in the freezer, to ensure that there are no lurking larvae before they go off to the charity shop. Someone (probably me) had left the freezer ajar, and I had to spend half an hour shovelling snow and chipping ice before I could shut it again, so that delayed the progress of the hoovering.

It isn't over yet. Next to The Gang's basket was the basket in which I keep my socks. I have not yet identified the larval skins that I found on the carpet underneath it, but the whole basket is now in the garage awaiting sock-by-sock inspection. Oh joy!

* Actually, I have no idea whether kapok is biodegradable.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Autumn I

A dappled grey overcast sky, hints of gold in the leaves, and a misty haze lying close over the city as you approach it from the hills to the west. Today was definitely the first day of autumn in these parts. Thoughts in the garden turn to tucking all the plants up in bed for the winter, even though the roses and the gladioli are still putting on a show. The summer's unusual weather has confused the blueberry though: the leaves have turned scarlet, but flowers have begun to appear. Plans for planting must include at least one tree, and some more gladioli, as the ones already in the ground have proved an unexpected success, and appear to be unpalatable to the slugs which feast so irresistibly on the delphiniums and the black hellebore.

The Squirmle (alias Tiny Bookworm) has had some more jabs today. He now weighs 13 lb 5 oz, holding his own between the 9th and 25th centiles, and is 65 cm long, which is above the 75th centile. I have visions of a basketball scholarship!

LibraryThing has updated the Zeitgeist, and others have been as busy as me, or busier: 2,607 books, but only up to No. 506.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Greenbelt I

Found the book tent. Enough said?

I couldn't possibly carry away all the interesting things I found there, but I came out with a list of ISBNs scrawled in the back of my schedule. More book-buying is now imminent, and the almost interminable list of Books I Must Read will become even longer, no thanks to Keith Ward, John Henson, Pete Rollins, et al.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Is Nature immoral? or Should pet cats be banned?

We found a baby mouse on the path. I guess it was dropped there by the neighbour's cat. I looked up "rearing orphan mice" on the Web, and decided that I was not going to be a workable substitute for a mummy mouse, given the immense labor involved in attempting to feed the thing, keep it warm, and possibly (according to one site) help it do its own poo.

(Boy, it would be good if baby humans only evacuated in response to parental stimulation, though! A whole swathe of problems would vanish in an instant!)

So poor baby mouse was gently abandoned in the hedgerow across the road. The Gospels assure us that God sees a sparrow fall, but they don't say that he actually does anything about it: which is why many people of a religious disposition find themselves unable to take traditional Christian doctrine at face value, and move towards deism (there is a God but he's not bothered), pantheism (God and the world are aspects of the same thing), or various nuanced forms of non-theistic faith.

Pet cats are a moral conundrum rather like holiday flights: dispassionately considered, they do such evil to the environment, and yet in human terms they have such apparent benefits in terms of well-being and fulfilment that it seems hard to campaign wholeheartedly against them.

Do I want to be associated with these people?

One of the disconcerting effects that emerges from LibraryThing is that my library occasionally groups me with some folks who hold political or religious opinions radically different from mine. I suppose this is inevitable, really. I keep quite a number of G. K. Chesterton's books because I like reading them, not because I actually agree with Chesterton's views or beliefs. His patriotic nostalgia and eccentric heroes ring an emotional bell with me, even though I can't align myself with the positions they take him to.

On the other hand, perhaps my osmotic theory of knowledge will also work with beliefs: if I have shelves full of books by opinionated conservative Catholics, will I wake up one day to find myself signed up to the U.S. Republican Party or the Society of St Pius the Nth? I hope not: but maybe I need to get out to the bookshop and buy some books by Bishop Spong to balance out all that C. S. Lewis!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Friday, 17 August 2007

A small milestone

Today we reached (and passed) 2,400 books on LibraryThing, and have made it to No. 565 on the 1000 largest libraries list.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The borrowed book

For the first time since joining LibraryThing, I have read a book that I do not own, and am confronted with the decision about whether to add to my catalog/ue a book that I have never owned. The reasons for doing so would be (a) to remind me that I have read it and (b) to record any comment or review. In principle, I have an 'association' with the book sufficient to qualify it for addition. But I am a hoarder, a jackdaw, a book-collector, dammit, and I love the idea of having a list of all the books actually on my shelves (all mine, my preciousss). Of course, I have already compromised this by listing books, reviewing them, and then putting on the 'out' pile and tagging them "export"; but at least I did once own them. Maybe I could start a new LibraryThing catalog for books I do not own, and copy the details across...; but then, the reviews would not count towards my total, and my narcissistic aim of getting on to the Reviewers Zeitgeist page would be set back. Aargh!

The book in question is The Fencing Master, which I found in a bookcase while on holiday in Somerset and read over the course of the week. It was very enjoyable. Maybe I'll add it and tag it "unowned" or "borrowed" or something. I'm going to run into the same problem with Riddley Walker...

Monday, 13 August 2007

Here we go!

Welcome to my blog! Actually, I prefer living my life to documenting it, so I won't be a very active presence on the Blogosphere, but I like the idea of splurging my half-formed thoughts, opinions, and prejudices across the interweb. You can watch this space if you like, but don't hold your breath - you'll asphyxiate!