I made this gif a year ago in July 2016, but it does sum up June '17 rather well!

It is hard to believe it is July: the weather here is awful and has been for about a fortnight. There have been a few days when it's been fairly warm, hovering around the 18 °C mark, but for much of the time it's been chilly: cold enough and grey enough, in fact, to have the fires on and, unbelievably, even the electric blanket. One of the consequences of such damp weather is midgies: midgies, if you're lucky enough not to know, are fiends from hell. Their proper name is "midges" (I've never actually heard anyone call them that), or, the Latin, Culicoides impunctatus. They bite. They swarm. They make it hard to breathe when there is enough of them, and we have a saying around here: "Kill a midgie, and a million will attend its funeral". No wiser words spoken: if they're out, you must stay in. Sometimes at dawn or sunset when people walk their dogs they have to wear protective gear, it is that bad! And so I've not many pictures to share: I've taken one or two throughout the month, and this morning I braved the outdoors and took some quick shots, so please do excuse the poor quality images! I only got bitten three times, which is a victory: yesterday I tried to ignore them (there was work I had to do) and I got bitten three times on my lips alone; you can imagine how much that hurt!

And so, here we are at the half-way point of 2017. I must say June was a particularly awful month. We had two terrorist attacks: London Bridge on 3rd June and Finsbury Park on 19th June. Then there was the horrific Grenfell Tower fire on 14th June, and such was its ferociousness the number of dead will not be known, it's said, until 2018. And, of course, the General Election on 8th June: the results, if I'm being pedantic about it, weren't truly known until almost three weeks later when the Conservatives reached an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party having had to bribe them with a £1b extra for Northern Ireland. None of it went down terribly well, as you can imagine. June was the most uncertain and, at times, unstable month. We thought 2016 was bad. And, just to drag it out a bit more, some are predicting another General Election either late this year or early next year. The absolute bizarreness of politics these days is nicely encapsulated in a tweet by Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, of Gillian Anderson in seamed stockings and stilettos. Every day something ridiculous happens. That, though, I really wasn't expecting.

Other than that. Well, I do have two poorly hens (Florence and Agnes) which is rather stressful. They are my best hens (I do love Meg and Ruby, but they're very anti-social and, Meg especially, has quite an aversion to humans) so please please do keep your fingers crossed. Agnes did seem fairly jolly this morning, which is good, but Florence not so much and the vet did say about Florence that this new round of treatment should be her last, and if it doesn't work then we'd have to call it a day. I love her very much; she reminds me very much of Annie, an old hen from a few years ago now, who was particularly special: exceptionally friendly and affectionate. Like Annie, Florence always runs up to see me no matter what she's doing and loves cuddles and attention. So, again, please keep your fingers crossed.

Now that doom and gloom is out of the way, some garden pictures. Not the best quality: was taking them fairly swiftly to avoid aforementioned midgies.

This morning's mist.

Box hedge, mint, lobelia, phlox, and buttercups.

Rose, honeysuckle, and escallonia (apple blossom).

Roses, twisted willow, and a blurry blackbird.

Behind the statue - left, in March, and right this morning.

A new edition: 'Simply Sally' Rose.


Baby Blackbird.

As for books. Now, again, we're at the half way point so a quick review of my challenges: I've finished three so far - 

  1. A 19th Century ClassicNo Name by Wilkie Collins.
  2. A 20th Century ClassicFinnegans Wake by James Joyce.
  3. A classic by a woman authorThe Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge.
  4. A classic in translationThe Cowards by Josef Škvorecký.
  5. A classic published before 1800Histories by Herodotus.
  6. An romance classicTristan by Gottfried von Strassburg.
  7. A Gothic or horror classicThérèse Raquin by Émile Zola.
  8. A classic with a number in the titleThe Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare.
  9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the titleThe Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen.
  10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visitUtopia by Thomas More.
  11. An award-winning classicOld Cantankerous by Menander.
  12. A Russian ClassicOn the Eve by Ivan Turgenev.

NorwayThe Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen.
RussiaOn the Eve by Ivan Turgenev.

  1. Ivanov by Anton Chekhov.
  2. The Seagull by Anton Chekhov.
  3. Uncle Vania by Anton Chekhov.
  4. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov.
  5. The Bear by Anton Chekhov.
  6. The Proposal by Anton Chekhov.
  7. The Jubilee by Anton Chekhov.
  8. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  9. On the Eve by Ivan Turgenev.
What's left: one for the Victorian Reading Challenge (I'll finish it next week with The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray for the 'Book with illustrations' category), five more instalments for Pickwick Papers (I cannot believe there's only five left, it doesn't seem like that long since we started!), three for the Mount TBR Challenge (I have Apuleius' The Golden Ass to blog about, and All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West and The Rose and the Ring planned for the coming weeks), and 26 titles for the Deal Me In challenge. Finally, 20 Books of Summer: like last year, I want to make a few alterations to it - my reading plans often have an almost sadistic bent to them and I had five Restoration plays on there, despite the fact that I don't actually like Restoration plays. Why I put them on, I don't really know, but I'm booting them off. Here's the list, and the new additions are the bottom five:

  1. The Golden Ass by Apuleius. ✔
  2. Ethics by Aristotle.
  3. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo.
  4. The Symposium by Plato.
  5. Constellation Myths: With Aratus's Phaenomena by Eratosthenes and Aratus. 
  6. The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse.
  7. In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. ✔
  8. Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth.
  9. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. - currently reading
  10. Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. ✔
  11. Monkey by Wu Cheng'en. ✔
  12. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. 
  13. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. ✔
  14. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. ✔
  15. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.
  16. As You Like It by William Shakespeare.
  17. Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare.
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  19. Selected Letters by Jane Austen.
  20. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West.

Apart from reading, I also have some summer resolutions. These are the things I would love to finish by autumn:
  1. Decorating. I have the kitchen, hallway and landing, and living room left. I do have the paint for the kitchen, so hopefully that will be done next week.
  2. Plant another rose at the front door. I planted one two years ago and always meant to get one for the other side of the door. Don't honestly know why I didn't, but the two year old rose is doing so well and it'd be good to have another on the other side.
  3. Make a convincing start on taxes for January (it's a vast and miserable job and I'd love to have it done early this year).
  4. Start doing Wordless Wednesday again. I miss that!
  5. Start doing yoga again. 
  6. Find and plant a Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus).
  7. Get some kind of shrub that is especially beautiful in the autumn.

Finally, reading plans for July: a Shakespeare play, Constellation Myths and Phaenomena by Eratosthenes and Aratus, Confessions by St. Augustine, All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West, The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, the Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, and if there's time, Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. And, of course, plenty of Vasari!

Happy July, everyone! 🌸


  1. impressive and ambitious list... good luck.... we had our kitchen remodeled: the formaldehyde smell made us sick so we had them take out the cabinets, counters, floor, etc.. they wouldn't take them back... grrr... i went down to the local recycle place and got a dishwasher, sink, cabinet for it, and some other things and installed them myself so now at least we can do the dishes and have hot water access... looking about now for used furnishings which is all we can afford; besides they usually don't reek... then i got sick: doctors are not good any more, ime; i went to one and he said i had some kind of virus. i had had shingles and after consulting my vet daughter, i figured i had a recurrence of it; i'm better now... fighting moles this morning who used the time to good advantage...

    1. Oh dear, that's not much fun. And shingles! I've never had shingles but my friend did once, I gather it hurts like the devil. Glad your better.

      I don't have moles here but the village definitely does and my mother had a few hills, one of which actually broke the garden gate. I've fixed it but it's weaker I think. May need to revisit that gate :)

      Going to start on kitchen today - we're just painting it. Would like to remodel ours, but it's all so expensive, isn't it? :)

  2. June was truly a horrible month. I lost a dear colleague at the London Bridge attacks...and to think he was there on vacation!! All these events are just terrible and it is all still settling in! I hope Florence and Agnes do feel better!! Awesome Reading Progress!! My first half has been nothing much to write about!! I loved The Rose and The Ring and I await your blog post on the same! Interestingly I just got my copy of All Passions Spent and I should be starting on it soon!! I completely agree with you on the Pickwick Paper read along ...I just updated my progress on GoodReads and seems like we have completed almost 70% of the book!! And yet it seems like we started yesterday!! So glad you came up with this idea...thoroughly enjoying this serial reading!

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your colleague. Lord, that's awful. It's all such a waste.

      Thanks for those kind words on Florence and Agnes. They both seemed quite bright this morning, which is good. This might be a stretch, but I'm wondering if Florence has seemed worse because the weather's been so vile. None of them were exactly full of beans yesterday, but this morning is quite sunny - perhaps it's perked them up.

      I've read Rose and the Ring and am *considering* writing the review when I've finished my coffee. Got to be honest, wasn't in love with it!

      Glad you're enjoying Pickwick - I'm enjoying it much more like this. I detested it when I first read it: read it in about 3 weeks or so I think the first time :)

  3. You folks really have had an awful month. As far as weather goes, the simple solution would be to change places, since we are having a hot, dry summer as always. After the lovely long, wet winter we are now all terrified of fire. I did escape to the coast for a few days -- just got home -- and the cool, foggy weather was fabulous! Except we all froze at the outdoor wedding reception that was the reason for my trip.

    1. I hope there'll be a happy medium for us both this summer! It's a bit warmer here today but very low, thick cloud. Yet another grey day. It's bad for the soul!

  4. I very much like the Pickwick read-along. In general you remind me how valuable libraries are, especially those dedicated to preserving books from the past. Sometimes i think i could spend whole days in just being there quietly, a volunteer caregiver in an old-books home.

    This lady's experiment was fun to read about, and her own book was a delight : https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/16/phyllis-rose-the-shelf-library-book

    1. Glad you're enjoying the Pickwick read-along! And thanks for the link, look forward to reading it this evening :)


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