5 books and a pencil

Castle hotel train cakeOur oldest grandson’s birthday falls just before Christmas, so Mrs TD and I travelled to Somerset to celebrate with his family. We broke our journey in Taunton and stayed overnight in the atmospheric Castle Hotel, with its cobbled forecourt, crenellations and Norman garden.

The lobby looked very festive, with the centrepiece of this huge gingerbread cake, with a miniature electric train chugging around its circular track. How our grandson would have loved it when he was little, and train mad.

Before sharing a delicious seafood meal with our old friend the regulator, who lives nearby, we trawled the shops (in my case, charity bookshops). I came up with this haul of five titles.

Taunton book haul

Taunton book haul

Antonia White’s The Lost Traveller is the first volume in the trilogy sequel to Virago’s first-ever title in its iconic Modern Classics green-spined series: Frost in May. I have yet to read it, but it’s good to have both volumes to anticipate.

I posted on Stefan Zweig’s poignant novel Beware of Pity last year, and The Post Office Girl was recommended by a Zweig aficionado soon afterwards.

I have a couple of other William Gass titles waiting to be read, and liked the look of this American paperback edition of Cartesian Sonata and other novellas – his fifth work of fiction.

I saw the Werner Herzog film ‘The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser’ a few years after it came out in 1974, so it was good to get hold of the 1908 novel by Jakob Wassermann based on the same strange story, in a handsome PMC edition.

Italo Svevo, the pen name of Aron Ettore Schmitz, was a friend of James Joyce during his Trieste years. I read The Confessions of Zeno pre-blog, so I was pleased to find another of his novels in the older PMC format.

Kaweco brass pencilBack home in Cornwall for Christmas, and a pleasant family time with the other grandchildren and their parents, over from Catalonia. Among my presents was this handsome brass clutch pencil: SketchUp 5.6. It’s made by the German company Kaweco. It was a thoughtful gift from Mrs TD’s sister and brother-in-law.

Kaweco pencil and tinIts design I think goes back to the 1930s. It looks very art deco and Weimar. It came in an equally retro tin box. I’ll enjoy using it. Problem is, I now want its companion fountain pen.

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas, if you celebrated it, and that 2020 is full of good times. I can’t say I look forward with much relish to living in Britain once we’ve left the EU. Let’s hope we can somehow maintain good relations with our friends and neighbours across the Channel – despite turning our backs on them in a fit of ill-tempered petulance.


12 thoughts on “5 books and a pencil

    • Lisa: it’s very sad. We were with our son in Berlin (he now lives near Barcelona) when the referendum result came out: we were all devastated. Among other things it makes his own life in Europe more problematic. I just hate the xenophobic message it sends about my country. Hope you’ve had a good Christmas, and a happy new year to you and yours.

  1. Nice haul there. Kaspar Hauser is such a knock-out of a film; I eagerly await seeing what you make of the novel. And I’m happy to see the Svevo among your finds; that’s one of the books at the top of my list to get to this coming year. Felice anno nuovo!

  2. Brexit is a disaster – it upsets me so much I can’t bear to talk about it (which is probably why I’m hiding in books right now).

    But a lovely haul from the charity shops. I have Zeno somewhere (in two translations, I believe) – and hope to get to it one day… ;D

    • Karen: I too find it hard to face what’s coming in the years to come, as we turn our backs on our neighbours and become a pariah state, led by the privileged elite that we’re told ‘the people’ were punishing. Some punishment. But yes, books provide a refuge and solace – not an escape, but an endorsement of the human values that have gone missing in the larger world

  3. Love your incomings and agree with your final sentiments. My father in law questioned me plaintively on Boxing Day – so my clients in Europe have all told me they’ll stick with me, right? Well, no, sorry. What can you say? Anyway, let’s hope we all manage to cling on to what we hold dear. And happy new year!

  4. It’s the shattering of an illusion which is the most difficult thing to bear; I mean the illusion (which I have nurtured for so many years) that one lives in a society of fair-minded, compassionate individuals. Admittedly it’s been difficult on so many occasions to sit in a pub and listen to the conversations going on within earshot and still cling to that notion, but actually I have clung on for dear life. Or had until the referendum, and then December 12th. Still, as you say, there are pens and there are books. My Christmas haul has included Clive James’s collected writings on the work of Philip Larkin … highly recommended. Thank you for your blog, from an expat Penwithian exiled to Yorkshire.

  5. Andrew: thanks for dropping by, and for commenting. The next few years – maybe longer – will be difficult, and I despair of the way the country seems to be turning in social and political terms. The nationalism and so-called populism we see even more unpleasantly in the USA. Penwith is beautiful – you must miss it. I’ve done several posts about it. I lived for some years as a child in N. Yorkshire. I’ve been in Cornwall nearly thirty years.

  6. Hi Simon,

    It is so wonderful to come to your lit site for a brief relief from Trump world. I agree 100% with your observation:

    “But yes, books provide a refuge and solace – not an escape, but an endorsement of the human values that have gone missing in the larger world.”

    We are in the midst of the primary (party choices) before our General election in November, and I have a horrible feeling we may end up with another four years of Trump! Unimaginble.

    But turning to nicer things, I just LOVE the deco box there. Was there a “Weimer” style as well? Take care and Happy 2020!

    • Maureen: I hope you and the USA – and the world – survive whatever’s to come after your election (there don’t seem to be any stand-out contenders against DT, sadly). Here in the UK we now have a ‘strong’ govt and PM who models himself on Trump- all bluster and ego. And we turn our backs on Europe. I’ve been busy for some weeks, hence the long silence here. Should finish the project soon, so can read and post more. Yes, the German pen and pencil are based on Weimar era designs, and are great to hold and write with. Books and stationery against despots!

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