Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Notes from Field and Fen!

Once in a while, this blog actually does live up to its title, and give you notes from field and fen, and this is one of those times.

HP is stable, struggling with physical therapy, but in a friendly place with a lovely view of trees and sky and a compatible roommate of whom more later, so I was free to just enjoy today, which I did at the Preserve, our local little wilderness area.

And as soon as I drove in, even before I parked, I saw a pair of bluebirds! what an omen! and then a couple more pairs in no time at all. Then tree swallows, one, then two, then a huge flock of them skimming and wheeling about the sky, along with a few barnswallows and a couple of purple martins. Right across them, a double crested cormorant cut through the air on his way to his favorite fishing spot. Woodpeckers rattling and pecking, cardinals singing various versions of their repertoire, tufted titmouses shouting. The first warm sunny day of spring, with no wind, after a huge storm the other night took down trees and left behind screaming winds yesterday.

Several people walking on the Preserve, all smiling endlessly at finally seeing Spring all over the place. The merlins are in hot pursuit of hapless smaller birds, sad but they are amazing pilots to watch.

One birder told me he saw a couple of little orange butterflies today, too, probably commas, since they are to be seen there, and they hibernate rather than migrate, so the first warm day brings them all out. and the mosses are brightening up, the bright sun outlining the paper wasp nest high in a tree and the fungi on a fallen log.

And on the way in to see HP this afternoon, a carpet of brilliant blue flowers right next to the parking lot, so I added it to the list of pix in the camera to show him.

And you!

And his roommate, a 99 year old, that is not a typo, man who was living independently until two weeks ago, and plans on getting out and continuing to live alone (outlived TWO wives, hm, some track record), asked me at dinner, when he and his family and HP and I were at the table "are you his really good friend then? you're here a lot."

His son and daughter explained more or less,and he said "oh, I must apologize for mistaking a wife for a friend!" dead seriously. Whereupon we all teased him about how you have to choose: be friends OR get married! heh. When people say I'm the wife of the couple I never explain, takes too long, life's too short!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sooner or later a pair of slippers appears..

The Red Slippers! alone and on the model. The others are variations on the same theme, presents for people, slippers seen facing away from you, so the toes are at the top of the pix.

Finally I am able to knit again. This is a barometer of emotional pressure! briefly I was so stagfloozled by the Big Hospital drama where even delivering lunch is done as if they were saving lives... that I could read The Provincial Lady and some Margery Allingham (which I recommend if you're not familiar, very entertaining) but couldn't do anything that involved thinking or planning, such as knitting, even deciding what to knit and finding the yarn,needles,etc.

I have a good stash of yarn, thanks to the kindness of strangers and a lot of friends, and to my harvesting efforts, and a bunch of needles,some dating back over 50 years and marked with Brit sizes, very confusing, which involves also having a needle gauge to find out what US size they are...

So when I couldn't think what to make, I made a pair of slippers for HP in red. He loves red, so I used up some very nice red chenille yarn in variegated shades, and you see the result, modeled by me, in the pix.

This is by way of being an act of faith that he will walk in them one day. Meanwhile, he likes them a lot -- amazing how fast they knit up, cast on the first one one day, worked in stray scraps of time, finished the second one the next day. The're with him in his room at the rehab. Finally, despite the best efforts of the Big Hospital, he made it there, and is now in his second room. The first one was total pandemonium with another patient, early dementia, I think, setting of bed alarms, terrible racket, and great misery all around, no sleep for HP at all, so I forced them to move him after one day of this, after I found out about it. Better now.

Anyway, the slipper reference, if you fancy making some is: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/maggieslippers.html. This probably won't be a hot link, since I have yet to figure out that technicality, but you can cut and paste.

They are really fun to do, and I've made several pairs as presents. Naturally I don't follow the pattern, but change and adjust and adapt and whatever, and I'll show you another pair if I can find the pic.

I'm taking the orchid in the previous post in to HP's room when i visit today, because he has a windowsill and natural light, very good location, and he can watch its progress.

So good that spring is advancing rapidly now, complete with soaking rains, but they're good for the flowers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

News not so good, but there's always orchids!

Two views of the first brave orchid

So the heart testing for HP is done, in a confusing, frightening and disorganized day yesterday, in one of the best heart hospitals on the eastern seaboard, with brilliant doctors and nurses, and very flaky administration, and the news is about as bad as it can be.

Too much damage for simple repair, open heart surgery only option for repair. He is way too frail for that, and his cardio had already advised us before the testing that it if came to that, she would prefer he treat with medication, and just manage it that way. Very disappointing news, but at least we now have some facts. He is confused and upset but still determined that surgery is not on the cards, and I must say I agree with that.

No news yet on when he will travel to the other rehab, where I fervently hope he can get a decent sleep and rest. His nurse called me this morning, and put him on the line to reassure him (and me!), and we are both living for when he can finally come home and resume non-hospital life.

Times like this I bless Lyndon Johnson's administration for pushing Medicare. The costs of all this hospital care and special treatments are sky high and almost all covered. The spinal surgery alone, for instance, would have cost $41,000. cost to HP, his Medicare deductible, which I think is $400. Totals not yet in, but accounting has already started to pour in for all the parts of what's been going on. This is why I never whine about paying taxes!

Meanwhile at home the orchids I was given through Freecycle last year, have started to bloom, and I have put pix up here of the first one to bud. Very cheering little flowers, with tiger faces inside the blossoms. They last and last. So I'm taking this as a good omen for all of us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Portrait of a Survivor

Can you believe that this picture was taken this afternoon of HP on his last day in acute care rehab, before he ships out to another hospital for heart work, then to another rehab for more work?

After a month which included major surgery, heart attack, two cardiac collapses, insertion of a pacemaker, and a grand mal seizure, followed by many hours of skilled rehab.

He wanted me to take this pic to leave for his many doctors and physical therapists and nurses and attendants and assistants, as a thank you, to show them how well he's looking as a result of their care. Also to celebrate the shave his nurse gave him as a farewell present!

Can you spell indomitable? or maybe hero? still anxious about the outcome of the heart work, but yet brave and facing yet another adventure. Two days in the heart hospital, then back to Princeton for more rehab in another facility.

Stay tuned for more adventures from this incredible Scot!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring is Sprung!

Crocuses before the snow fell

spring snow pretending to be flowers

spring is sprung, da grass is riz, I wonder where da boidies is. They say da boid is on da wing. But dat's absoid. Da wing is on da boid! wih many apologies to J. Durante...

First day of spring.

First: look at yesterday: crocuses blooming like mad before the robins come and rip them up to eat the pollen. then today: a snowstorm to welcome in the spring equinox, with snow flowers on the patio, and decorations on the pachysandra and red bush thing whose name escapes me, out front. The snow flowers are sedum, which I cut when dry and put out in the winter to look as if spring will in fact come again.

In this household, it's been a long time coming and not quite here yet: HP still has to have a fairly serious heart procedure next week, then more rehab if it goes smoothly, then eventually HOME. The logistics of all this are too scary and dull at the same time to recount, so I just fervently hope all that has been attended to is everything that's needed and that all the moving parts work as planned..

However, best news for last: today HP walked five, count them, five, steps unaided, holding onto parallel bars, two physios spotting him but not assisting. Spectacular progress in a short time, and they are very pumped about it. One of them, Liz, said, this is why I love this work! look, in a couple of weeks from totally helpless and frail, to feeling stronger, looking his old self, and actually making real steps. This is beyond exciting, and we pray that the heart procedure goes okay and doesn't interfere with the progress.

And great news on the art adventure front: lunch yesterday with one of those friends whose talents you keep on and on discovering, no end to her accomplishments, in addition to her professional life and pet rescue volunteer work, and literacy volunteering. I knew she's a basket-maker, because I'm the proud owner of a couple of them, but now I find she does what I want to learn: she spins! with a wheel and fleece, I mean. Carding and roving and flanging, well I made that up, because I haven't learned the terms yet, but you get it.

So she and I are going to see how to launch my spinning career this year. A logical progression from knitting to designing to making wallhangings, to spinning the raw material, yay. Too exciting for woids, and I had no idea she could open this door for me.

What a weird fabric is life -- all kinds of threads and slubs and snags and lovely passages and colors and shapes and sounds and tastes all at the same time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Knitting and other wildlife!

My section of the milkweed project, which accompanied me through emergency rooms, surgical waiting rooms, intensive care waiting rooms, telemetry units and acute care rehab! quite an adventurous piece of work.

Miss Adventure, the puppy next door, struttin' and stylin'

Local varmint!

Beautiful old trees we see over the roofs out back, with starlings starting to gather.

One of the good things about the digi camera is being able to take pix at home and when I go in to visit HP, show him what was what at home just a few hours earlier.

I finished my section of the milkweed project, size 52 x 8 inches, approx., shipped it, and then turned to other forms of wild life....

Portrait of the Flying Puppy from next door, very proud of her exploit, meanwhile, the local chipmunk showed up, and took a sunbath on the back of our patio chair while musing over which vital wires to chew up, and the starlings started showing up in numbers in the trees out back, beautiful before the leaves start to come out and hide their shapes. Then they're beautiful with foliage, lovely very old trees, a relic of the old farms that used to be here.

NJ, surprising to people who haven't visited, is packed wall to wall with trees. To this day it's illegal to import and grow gooseberries, because they carry white pine blister rust, a fatal disease to the white pine, a major export of the state.

And if you go up to a high floor in the hospital I've been visiting daily all these weeks, and look down, it's like being in a forest -- no sign of traffic, even houses are obscured by wonderful trees, many of them very old. There are even virgin pine trees in the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study, Einstein's old stomping ground, a stone's throw from the hospital, and undisturbed since colonial times.

Chipmunks, are, however, a different story. When we first came to live in the US, we were unfamiliar with a lot of wildlife, and I remember on the main street of Madison, WI, seeing this tiny stripy animal, very cute, on the sidewalk, and I stopped a passing student and said, what's THAT? he kind of backed away from me, and said, uh, it's called a, you know, chipmunk, looking at me as if I must either be joking or demented. Who wouldn't know what chipmunk was....

And then there are the friends whose basement was totally flooded by a chipmunk's chewing through a small water pipe down there, unknown to the family until someone went downstairs to find something...and the friend who accidentally let a chipmunk into the house, where he scurried behind the dishwasher, which made terrible noises, then a big screech, a bang and a puff of smoke....no more dishwasher. No more chipmunk,either, I guess.

This was a good day, HP feeling stronger and better, always a good thing. Plans for coming home postponed possibly, but he is handling it. Snowdrops are finished, but I took a couple of daffodils still in bud in to his room, and they are opening up and looking wonderful, smelling of springtime.

I had a St. Patty's Day lunch with a friend who showed up looking fabulous in green with great jewelry, and I forgot what day it was and showed up in red with red lace knit scarf.....not a protest against St. Patrick, I explained, just absentmindedness. We both have Irish grandmothers we didn't know, so we were kind of honoring them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Caution: Flying Puppies!

Various dogs who've taken part in our lives!

So around here we're dealing with various bureaucracies and other entities getting the house accessible for HP who is scheduled to be either a) here at home or b) at another hospital getting a heart procedure week after next, and eventually home, in a wheelchair in any case.

The heart thing has to happen, but the spinal surgeon wanted it delayed at least a month from the surgery, which will be March 19th, and the cardio wants it as soon as can be done. It may be that they spring him from the rehab directly to the heart place, which is up the road a few, but we won't know that until the cardio, a lady with a heart of gold, sees what she can do to make it easier on all of us, transportation of a person in a wheelchair into and out of a regular compact car being a major undertaking for a lady of advanced years, i.e. me!

Hardest thing in the world for Me, the Doer, is to wait on arrangements, rather than running the show myself. Which is where one of the lessons of the shakuhachi flute comes in: in the traditional shak. music, any other sounds, cellphone, truck outside, oxen lowing, whatever, is not considered an interruption of the music, but becomes part of it. It's just another feature of the moment.

This is a huge and wonderful metaphor for our current lives, that the cascade of misfortunes that have befallen HP is not an interruption of our "real" lives, but a bumpy part of it. Zen-like insight. To live as the moments come by, not put everything on hold till things "get better." and to see that waiting on arrangements is not an interruption of fixing things, but a part of it.

The Buddhist monks in Tibet used to make their mandalas using crushed precious stones, but once they had been driven out and had to take refuge in India, no more supplies of precious stones. So they calmly switched to colored sands instead. One explained to me that the meaning is unchanged, doesn't reside in the materials. Very fluid approach to life which I like a lot.

Which is where the Flying Puppy comes in. Other night, I was going around with a yardstick measuring openings and doorways to allow for wheelchair, and thought it would be good to check the front door (duh!) and the storm door, too, since it opens a bit less wide than the front door. Swung open the storm door into pitch dark, and a furry grey and white totally silent figure hurled itself into my arms!

At first I thought it was a neighboring cat, since we often receive requests from cats to let them move in. I think there's a sign on any place I live saying: Apply here, especially if you're a cat...anyway, fended him off with the yardstick, not wanting a major catfight in the living room if my own cats got wind of this interloper.

And realized it was a dear little fluffy pup. Collar, no name tag. I only know of one dog like this around, and went next door to ask them if she was theirs, not having seen her for ages, not sure.

They were almost in tears of gratitude when I handed them the dog -- she was last seen out back on the patio, had evidently dug her way out, being of an adventurous frame of mind, and must have found her way to the end of the block, right round the building and close to her own front door. They didn't even know she'd gone! she's now restored to her family, and I keep cracking up at the Flying Puppy Caper.

Dogs are the ultimate example of living in the moment, as Appy showed me. She kind of knew me, didn't care if this was the right house, it was a house with lights and warmth and a friendly human, and that was good enough to leap into the human's arms. never mind if all her requirements were filled or not! and when I handed her back home, she went happily there, too. No worries! this is good to remember.

I became briefly an interesting feature of her life, and she of mine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not out of the woods yet...flutes needed

These images are from tonight's meeting of our local recorder society, which as you will see, read on, was very timely for me, at least!

So HP is not out of the woods yet. It turns out that HP's ability to move that leg that caused all the grief does not necessarily mean he will walk again. His physio said they can not tell yet if he will ever walk, that we need to plan as if he will not. This is really difficult news to process. They're not hopeless, but are advising he will leave rehab, March 24, in a wheelchair and we need to adapt the house to some extent in case he doesn't walk.

They're working on strengthening his upper body for that contingency. So today does not look as bright as yesterday did. Let's hope the next two weeks help him a lot.

So it was very good that I managed to get to the Recorder Society March meeting, this evening, since the subject matter was perfect! a master shakuhachi flutist and teacher performed, and demonstrated and taught us some ancient Japanese meditative melodies that he plays on the shaku and we on the recorder.

It's closely related to Buddhist meditation, not unlike a musical version of walking the labyrinth, and I got a lot out of it. He's American but has studied for many years in Japan with Japanese teachers, and has been officially granted the right to teach shakuhachi flute -- it's a long tradition dating back to the warrior classes in Japan, with a lot of twists in turns in the history. He explained the relationship of this music to Buddhist chants and meditation and to tai chi.

Those figures you see in Japanese prints of men with a kind of strange rattan hat on that comes over the face, with eye holes, playing a wind instrument -- those were shakuhachi players, very privileged people.

You had to be of a certain class and a certain group, and definitely male at that time, in the medieval period, even to be allowed to play. But nowadays it's okay for anyone, though women players in Japan do face discrimination from people who still think it's a boy's game! stringed instruments were more likely to be women's instruments, for some reason. Anyway, I'll post pix of this wonderful man, Glenn Swann, and some of my friends trying their hands at playing some of his flutes.

The embouchure is very much like the transverse flute which I play, and I was able to get a couple of lovely notes out of the one I tried.

So this was a gift of an evening, very helpful in all kinds of ways, and being among friends I hadn't seen for a while was good, too. We were able to bring home our copies of the music, which Glenn had transliterated into Western style music from the Japanese version he plays from.

Tomorrow I plan a meditation on them, using my flute. It's good for the spirits, largely I think from the intake of oxygen! and my spirits could use a dose of oxygen right about now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sky's the Limit!

Caution:beavers at work!



Okay, so today HP announces two things: he's exhausted, in pain from his shoulders and: he got vertical!!!!!! stood up twice out of the wheelchair, using parallel bars and a helper on each side. Verticality took place. Briefly, but never mind, he did it.

He has gone from being highly anxious three days ago about even sitting on the side of the bed with help, all the way to doing arm exercise stuff, then working in the gym, entailing a ride down in the elevator and along a long hallway, to do the parallel bar stuff for his legs. I think back to two and a bit weeks ago, when even with massive help, it was impossible for him to be vertical.

I reminded him that it's not surprising that someone who had major cervical spinal surgery two weeks ago and a pacemaker installed a week ago, might have hurting shoulders at this point, and that each thing he does is something his body will remember.

My chief role at this point is to be a good cheerleader, keep tabs on all the various people involved in his care, and be there in the late afternoon when he's tired out, keep him company for dinner, then leave before HS arrives to have his time with his dad.

People do seem to think that walking again with a walker is on the cards, but I can't breathe out on that one yet...

Meanwhile, I have to re-engineer my own days while he's away, and remember to do things for the Great Me! including a lovely walk out on the local wilderness preserve the other day, looking at spring mosses and lichens and evidence of beavers working away felling all the trees they can manage, to make their dams.

Joyful days now. Early spring here in central NJ. Let's hope for a lot more of them.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Journals, new and old, and, gasp, shopping...

Pictures of the insides and of the covers of journals -- the Rehab Journal, a couple of gardening journals, one a Japanese handbound beauty, one a fabric covered one, and my favorite mulberry journal, created with mulberry paper, with leaves laminated onto the covers, and mulberry twig forming the front of the binding, made in Indonesia, a gift from a friend.

Today was a much much better day for HP, simply looking and sounding like himself, stronger, able to take one or two assisted steps using the leg that was the reason for the spinal surgery. Getting used to the pacemaker and not concerned all the time about it. His doctors were smiling for the first time in two weeks! general happiness all round.

I had picked most of our snowdrops,since the snow has melted off them now, and took them in to set in a glass where HP and the other patient in the room could enjoy. Other patient is virtually speechless, unable to move, very very disabled older gentleman, and when I held the snowdrops to his nose to sniff, he sniffed and said, oh, that's lovely! I really teared up then. Nice scent of spring for them all. HP loves flowers so he was thrilled with this little present.

So I figured I deserve 1. the evening off from visiting, was in there a lot today, HS will go in after work tonight, and 2. a trip to the Red, White and Blue thrift store, where I scored a nice putty colored cotton shift, a lovely very fine corduroy blue shirt, and off to Tarjay for a couple of white ts with elbow length sleeves, a first for me. And socks to replace the ones I wore out pacing the hospital corridors!

And I took a few pix of my journals, since I started a new one this week. At the library book sale, my favorite place for blank books unless I make my own, I found a jazzy little tall narrow book, yellow and purple, kind of 50s designed cover, completely new, for a big dollar. This has become my Rehab Journal, as an antidote to all the stress of the last few weeks.

First page introduced the series of um, events, that have cascaded over us. After that, left hand page is how I'm feeling and thinking, right hand page is what's happening with HP, without guessing at his emotions. I find it's handy to process this way. And the pages face each other, a metaphor in itself.

The others are a general pupose mulberry book, and two gardening journals, andyou'll see some of the photos I put in as reminders, as I go, along with tags from items I've bought, for price and source since you never remember even if you think you will.

And now I'm luxuriating in being able to just peacefully talk and think about nothing more pressing, pun intended, than clothes and journals and shopping and spring flowers. This is the best gift I've had in ages.

As is the knowledge that today, a lovely day at last, is my mother's birthday. She was born in 1895, but is still very much alive to me on days like this.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good news, bad news, square breathing

Line drawing of HP's shoes, with fervent hope that he will soon be back in them!

HP, for he good news first, is now officially stabilized and is supposed to be moved to acute care rehab today, yay. Staples are out of the spinal surgery place, pacemaker appears to be keeping pace okay, he was sitting up for a whole half hour with no new incidents today.

Tentative finding is that yesterday's events did not do damage, at least not that can be seen right now.

I'm home this afternoon for a rest and a blog, before going back in with stuff he will need in rehab, where they wear actual clothes, not rotten old blue gowns that open up all the time. Not that most people, in that situation, care much about the gown, just about how the heck they got here and how they're going to get back out again!

So,backing into the bad news: yesterday, as if all the drama were not enough, HP had a massive grand mal seizure, and there was real concern that the violence of it might have done damage to either or both of the surgical sites (note my newly acquired medical language, I could suggest happier ways to acquire it, but never mind). He was given a big extra dose of the anti seizure meds he has been on for lo these many years. His own neuro practices in the hospital he's at, so he was on tap, gave instructions not to fool around with new meds, given the disastrous trials he's made trying to get HP over to better meds, yeah, well, better for a lot of people, but not HP, oh well.

Consequently HP out of it all day yesterday, no memory of any of it, very unusual for him, usually functional a couple of hours after a seizure. No idea that I had spent most of the day with him and Handsome Son the evening. I even snook out in the afternoon and had a lovely music time with my recorder quartet, playing Banchieri and Palestrina, glorious stuff, very very healing for the players. Just five minutes up the road, so it worked fine.

So, today HP was still confused and struggling for language, but was able with help to take a couple of steps with the walker, yay, his left foot moves! not far, but what the heck, it moves. And he was getting clearer as the day went on, ate a good lunch with my help, and I left him ready to rest a bit. Rehab will be in he same building, same doctors following, great relief all around chez Adams.

And, get this,his rehab chief doctor is from the Kessler Institute, worked there for 10 years, rehab to the stars. Actually it is considered one of the best in the world, and I've been wondering if I could finagle HP into there, it being about an hour north of here, but it turns out I don't have to -- she's come to him! she told us Christopher Reeve was one of her patients, as well as a lot of other people in the newspapers. And she hastened to add that Reeve had a lot more "issues" doctors love that word instead of saying "scary things that can kill you" than HP. Which we knew, but it didn't hurt to make the point. And she was very reassuring and good to both of us.

So once again, a mixture of hope and good news and bad news now and then, and where the square breathing comes in is that it's how I manage the stress of all this. Simple and amazingly useful technique. In fact i was taught this as a little kid with asthma by my singing teacher, since I went to singing as rehab for asthma, smart mother who wanted me to learn breath control rather than reliance on drugs.

But the technique is for singing, for wind instruments, for anything in life that requires that you use the lungs and the diaphragm, keep calm, and keep the adrenalin in the right place. I have a good voice to this day, and pretty good recorder and flute tone, largely because of learning this at a young age, about seven, I think.

Anyway you: breathe in for a count of say, four, hold it for four, breathe out for four, hold lungs empty for four, then do it again. You can increase the count as you get better at it, and I can vouch for the fact that it works. You can't hyperventilate and panic if you do this, and calm simply descends on you. It's wonderfully useful at many times in life, not just crises.

It makes your hair curly, and your wrinkles vanish, and you look youthful, and you can learn to ice skate. Well, those are lies, but they could be goals....

So try it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fun reading and comfort food

Just a nice kitty picture to induce relaxation! this is Tigger, who lives across the way and comes to visit when he is out with his kids.

I think that a time like this in our lives, with HP having had his life, in cardiac collapse, saved three times in one week by virtue of already being in a monitored place in the hospital, and scheduled for a pacemaker implant tomorrow, on top of all else he has had to endure, and a major snowstorm scheduled for tonight, which might stop me from getting there, it's a good time to try to have my mind on something else!

For the last few days, reading a good book amidst the sturm und drang of hospital waiting rooms, very difficult places with visitors to ICU and CCU patients, great fear, anxiety, I've been buffering myself, in between being friendly and nice as I can to other people as scared as I am, with reading.

And incidentally, with wearing brigh cheerful colors, so as to add a bit of good cheer to the environment -- yellow sweater, or pink sweater with black and white knitted fuzzy scarf, or jade green top with white lacy scarf, etc., nice to see.

Anyway, the current distraction books have been good old EM Delafield, Provincial Lady in Wartime, which though it's about the outbreak of WW2 in England and people trying valiantly to find war work, which was not available for a long time, is very very funny.

People learning to remember to carry their gas masks, and new fashions in gas mask covers! and siren suits becoming a popular fashion item, no doubt in imitation of the ones Churchill wore, and how the whole effort more and more resembles a WI (Women's Institute, a clubby thing for countrywomen) meeting, complete with tea urns and stale buns....great ilustrations, too. And the edition I got, secondhand via Amazon, is a paperback with a wonderful paper cover with a design of the period on it.

I also read her The Provincial Lady in Russia, which is interesting rather than funny, and throughout she bemoans the fact that it's impossible to make a visit in the 1930s to Soviet Russia funny in the least though that's what her publishers wanted! did you know they abolished the days of the week? I mean, the names of them? just used dates and numbers, very confusing. Another paperback edition with paper cover, period design, just a lovely object to handle. Very intelligent production all round. Different illustrations fr this one: woodcut-like drawings rather than line drawings in the other funnier books. very dark, but appropriate.

And finally, the blessed Kate Atkinson, who can not write a bad novel. Latest: Case Histories. She is a totally wonderful writer, and if you haven't yet read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, run, do not walk, to get it. The fact that it's set in York, England, scenes familiar to me are special to me, but you don't need to be from there to love it. It's set in post WW2, when the entire population of England probably had PTSD, undiagnosed, looking back at it. But read any of her books, very very intelligent and perceptive and often funny, too.

All these are set in England. Noting like your country of origin to provide comfort reading, even if you hated the place, as I did when I lived there. Irony abounds!

And to go with this reading, I suddenly had the urge to make toffee last night after I got home. Brown sugar, water, vinegar, boiled and boiled then add vanilla, a bunch of slivered almonds, pour in buttered pan, let cool. Results: almond toffee. Excellent comfort food. First time in my life I made it -- vaguely remember it from childhood, but I wasn't the cook, older sister in charge of that, and I got a recipe from a Amish cookbook I had lying around. It was pretty good, too.