My roses.
Astonishing - we're half-way through the year. A whole six months have passed since New Year, which really does not seem so long ago. Six months ago I took a picture of the tree in the meadow near my house, how frosty and bleak it looked! And now, though a grey and rainy few weeks, it's grand to see flowers and green.

Still, we live in uncertain times. Not a day, barely an hour even, has passed without some shock. The Conservatives are beginning to move forward with their leadership campaign (the two main candidates for leader are Michael Gove and Theresa May - no Boris, he will not stand as leader), meanwhile the Labour coup still rages on. I just want to explain briefly why the coup is such a worry: the news in a nutshell is that leader Jeremy Corbyn faced a vote of no confidence - 170 MPs voted that they had no confidence in him, 40 voted in favour of him. The obvious conclusion is that he must resign and some find it troubling that he refuses. But there is another very important part of this that needs to be understood: apart from the fact that originally just under half of Labour MPs voted for Corbyn in the first place (out of four candidates), 83.76% of registered Labour supporters also voted for him, and finally 57.61% affiliated supports (Trade Unions and the like) wanted him too. Corbyn stormed it. Also remember that Corbyn is Labour; Tony Blair and the party he built (including existing MPs) was New Labour. These are excellent arguments why Corbyn should stay and resist this rather despicable coup, which, don't forget, was planned in 2015: 
The parliamentary Labour party will seek to oust Jeremy Corbyn as soon as he becomes leader, a Labour MP has warned. 
Simon Danczuk told LBC that Labour MPs would "not put up" with the "crazy left-wing policies" Corbyn plans to pursue as leader. 
Asked if the plotting against Corbyn would begin "on day one" he replied: "Yeah, if not before. As soon as the result comes out." 
[August 2015 | Politics.co.uk]
It's less than three months since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader but already newspapers address talk of a "plot" to stage a "coup" within the party. 
[November 2015 | BBC]
I thought it was important to write that: to a casual observer it seems as though Corbyn most go and I had to say some words on why it is far more complicated than that: a simplistic approach simply isn't fair.

But, I'm not going to write another political post. Safe to say I have been 'politicking' all week and I am exhausted by it! Truly though, the stress of watching the mayhem has really been quite something! Instead I thought I'd use this post to try and sort out my reading plans as I did say I wanted to make some changes. 

Firstly, The Faerie Queene: I've finished reading Book III and plan to post on cantos VII - XII at some point this month. After that I'm going to take a break from it and return to it either in late autumn or next year. Usually I'd feel bad about that and be driven on by my stubbornness, but, well, it's The Faerie Queene! It's hard! I don't feel bad about taking a pause, and besides I've always said one needs absolute enthusiasm for it to be able to read then blog about it, and right now I haven't quite got it so it's time for a breather.

Another change: for about two years now I've been working on The Guardian's Top 50 literary figures. I've read 41 out of 50 important writers on the list, but I'm afraid for at least a year if not more I've come to hate the list. I really truly could have finished it with not an extraordinary amount of effort, but I thought just a few weeks ago how flawed the list was and how I wasn't even a touch proud of the 41 I'd read so far. It had on it some great names, but it missed out so many who ought to have been in the top 50 I no longer took it seriously. So that's gone!

Also I'm going to alter my 20 Books of Summer list to a rather different 15 Books of Summer. I'll say more on that later.

The final difference in my usual approach to blogging is I'm usually so sure of what I plan to read for the month, and, novels-wise, I really don't know! I think, at the six month mark, it's a good point to look at my 2016 Challenges and see what's left and go on from there:
  • Reading England: I only have two titles left on this, Phineas Redux (for County Durham), which I'm half way through. Having just finished vol. 1 I'm going to have a few weeks off from reading it. It's not a favourite! The second title - Richard III for Leicestershire. I'm really looking forward to that and will certainly read it this month,
  • Reading Dorset: Again, only two titles - Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Well-Beloved by Thomas Hardy. Though I've had a few duds recently I'm enjoying Hardy so I won't give up on the Thomas Hardy Challenge, so I will be reading Tess in August I think and The Well-Beloved in September.
  • The Pickwick Papers Read-Along: A monthly read-along, and for the rest of '16 I hope we'll all be enjoying chapters 12 - 29.
  • The 12 Month Classics Challenge: Obviously, as its a monthly challenge, I have six titles left! I'm most looking forward to 'A children's classic', for which I'll read Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill. I might well be tempted however to re-read The Wind in the Willows. We'll see - it's not until September.
  • Women's Classic Literature Event: I trimmed this one slightly: I wanted to read titles from the Ancients to Post-War but I included Early Victorian, Mid Victorian, and Late Victorian. I've decided to just stick with the one 'Victorian' category for that. And I have three eras left - Renaissance (Heptaméron by Marguerite of Navarre), First World War (Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain), and Inter-War Period (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein).
  • 2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge: That I've finished.
  • #WoolfAlong: Half way through and looking forward to the second half - Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell, then four titles by Woolf herself - FlushA Room of One's Own, Three Guineas, and The Years.
  • Back to the Classics Challenge: I've finished this too.
  • Ancient Greek Challenge: I listed 40 titles and have finished 27 (got one, Phoenician Women, to blog abut next week). The remaining thirteen are the rest of Euripides and Aristophanes plays that I haven't read yet, plus The Iliad by Homer, Homeric Hymns, and The Histories by Herodotus.
  • The 2016 Bardathon Challenge: I love this challenge! For this I wanted to read all of Shakespeare's histories and I just have left to read Henry VI Part III, Richard III, and Henry VIII. I also have a post on Henry VI Part II for next week.
  • Deal Me In Challenge: I finished the 26th title on Monday, so 26 left. I'm most looking forward to the plays, especially The Borderers by William Wordsworth.
Now, the 20 Books of Summer: I actually listed 22 having forgot to add two titles! Of the 22, here's what I read in June:
  1. Ulysses by James Joyce.
  2. Henry VI Part I and II by William Shakespeare.
  3. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
  4. Congenial Spirits by Virginia Woolf.
  5. The Joy of Life by Émile Zola.
For July and August I'm going to list 15 titles I'd like to read:
  1. Henry VI Part III by William Shakespeare.
  2. Richard III by William Shakespeare.
  3. Henry VIII by William Shakespeare.
  4. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
  5. Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope.
  6. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope.
  7. A Group of Noble Dames by Thomas Hardy.
  8. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
  9. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein.
  10. Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell.
  11. Flush by Virginia Woolf.
  12. His Excellency Eugene Rougon by Émile Zola.
  13. The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis.
  14. Thomas of Woodstock, a play by an unknown author from 1582.
  15. The Tragedy of Valentinian by John Fletcher (I got this for the Classic Club Spin).
There, then, are the plans.

And, before I conclude this rather long post, some pictures of our new chickens! Meg and Florence are doing very well: they came to us with good feather coverage however both are badly malnourished. Thankfully though the two eat for England are beginning to gain some weight. Both are very confident, Florence is exceptionally affectionate, and the two have an astonishing zest for their new life. They're very excitable, curious, and enthusiastic and are taking their beatings from Agnes and Ruby with good grace. Unfortunately they still don't want to sleep in the coop (their beatings are getting less and less, but still it can't be fun) so that really is an issue right now. Anyway, here are some pictures:

Agnes (front) and Ruby (still she hates her picture taken).
Happy July everyone! :)


  1. Well, all I want to add is that I think rereading The Wind in the Willows just may be a pleasant, enjoyable escape in a world gone mad. Everyone should read it at least once. : )

    1. Agreed! I think I'll probably read it sooner - just mentioning it made me want to pick it up. Love it, and you're quite right, it's perfect to escape this mad world. :)

  2. i agree with Ruth. a formidable list there; admire your tenacity... tx for the hen pics; i've been and am bemused by the way chickens hold their feet. their toes are usually spread out like they have only a tenuous grasp on the ground and that feeling is reflected in their eyes, which constantly appear to be viewing the surround in alarm... so nice that you have hens; they're so much smarter than people... i read TFQ about twenty years ago. my job required driving along logging roads in the Oregon woods, maintaining natural gas equipment. i'd trundle along about 5 mph while reading, keeping a lookout for oncoming log trucks. i think it took me about three months to read the whole thing; and i ran off the road once, too, but it was worth it... and change is GOOD. everything around us changes so why shouldn't we...

    1. Well the hens are a sore point, particularly Meg - she's just dug up ALL of my night scented stock! I've never actually seen or smelt night scented stock so I was rather excited and now they're all gone :( I know chickens do this but it never gets less annoying! They're continuing to do very well though and I'm so happy with them! (It's just I have in the past half an hour discovered my poor plants.... Oh well... they've done it before, they'll do it again.....)

      Love your Spenser story! That's brilliant, though I hope you weren't hurt when you ran off the road :)

    2. Great story! LOL!

      I, too, am becoming more and more convinced that animals are smarter than people. My daughter and I were just over on the island with our kayaks ...... there were some Canadian geese drinking by a fresh water stream and when I started down the beach to get my kayak, they began to alarm. She told me that all I had to do was to explain to them what I was doing. With great scepticism, I explained to them in great detail what I was planning to do and it worked! They were completely calm and let me go about my business. Amazing!

    3. Wow! That's very cool :) Animals always surprise me though, they are surprisingly insightful :)

  3. So fun to see your re-vamped plans. I'm still busy and still looking forward to August for a little break. I would particularly like to get back to my Deal Me In challenge, as it's one of my favourites.

    Florence and Meg (in spite of being in the "dog house") look very pleased and happy to be where they are. I have to laugh that Ruby knows when she's getting her picture taken. Such personalities! Who'da thought?!

    1. Ruby always knows :) And I managed to save some of the night scented stock - just four flowers, but smelled them last night and they were beautiful! It's the first time I've smelled them :)

      Deal Me In is my favourite challenge for sure, love it! :D


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