SUNSHINE, OYSTER FORKS

I have had an excellent weekend. A really, really excellent weekend. Perhaps it was the sunshine. The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees are all singing as one with The Beatles – ‘Here comes the sun...’

Warm weather at last. Sunshine! I’ve been dragging the chain with my weeding but over the weekend I whipped the side garden into shape in record time; I think the sunshine was cheering me on, making me work faster.
I went for a drive over to Trentham and discovered that there’s a bookshop there, only recently opened, called Dr B’s Bookstore, in High Street. It’s not large, but the books are really interesting and good and well chosen. I’ve seen the word ‘curated’ used in relation to a small stock of carefully selected merchandise, so perhaps it’s well-curated, too. Anyway,  between us, we bought a swag of books and went away delighted to find such a treasure of a place.
A walk around the town under the still shining sun, and we saw blossoming trees, and new leaves, and masses of bright blue muscari (grape hyacinths), the biggest, fattest ones we’ve ever seen, and ducks on the pond and lots of people out and about enjoying the sunshine (there’s a theme here, isn’t there?) at cafes and the beer garden of the pub or just wandering about like us.

And yesterday I worked on my novel and went for a walk with my husband and dog in the park in the sunshine. Later, we had a friend around for afternoon tea and the pineapple upside-down cake I made (sorry, no photograph, and all but a tiny piece gone down the red lane) was a triumph. Sunshine on a plate with pineapple from the Sunshine State.

And I found out from our guest that the teeny-tiny forks I’ve been using as cake forks are actually OYSTER forks. As you can see from the picture below, an oyster fork (top fork) is sort of trident-shaped – my goodness, a reference to Poseidon, god of the sea? – and a cake fork not so. Our friend told us that our oyster forks were part of 19th century middle-class obsession with gentility – actually touching food was thought to be vulgar, so there were stabbing things to pick up pickles, and tongs for sugar, and racks for toast, and cake servers and fish knives and cake and oyster forks… All made of silver or EPNS (electro-plated nickel silver) to show that not only were you genteel, you were rich as well.  I can well imagine that naughty oysters with their aphrodisiac reputation were not for the pale fingertips of respectable ladies and gentlemen. Not in public, at any rate.

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Is the sunshine responsible for my reading, too? It’s absolutely on a roll. I finished The Jane Austen Book Club in a day. It was fun but not a patch on We Are All Absolutely Beside Ourselves; with that one, Karen Joy Fowler has gone to another level.
I’m still going on the John Minton biography; it’s research for my novel. I want to know what kinds of things artists in London in the 1950’s would have talked about.
I picked up a reading copy from the bookshop – the sales rep said it was going to be BIG –  and that it was terrific. The book was Spinster:Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick – and like Kath from Kath and Kim, I’d have to say, ‘Interesting, but I don’t agree.’
51RvG+DbkDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Perhaps it’s just too American for me. And though I understand that Bolick’s intention is to reclaim the word ‘spinster’ for independent single women, her models – or ‘awakeners’, as she calls them –  (Edith Wharton, Edna St Vincent Millay, Neith Boyce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Maeve Brennan) all except one seem to have been married women. ‘Spinster’ does seem to imply singledom and even solitude. Definitely a break from the boys. The very gorgeous Bolick seems rarely to have been without a boyfriend – she says of herself, that at one time she couldn’t walk down the street without being asked on a date! –  and I think I enjoyed most the parts of the book that read as memoir rather than manifesto or biography. Her family, her relationships with her mother and father, her friendships, her working life… these were much more alive than the stories of the five women.

With that out of the way, I started a new book –  My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I’m only forty pages in, but it’s brilliant. It’s such a wonderful secure feeling having a good book to read.

I AM READING:
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

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