Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 19, 2009

Holidays over….

Funny old things, holidays.  They come and go and before you know it you’re back at work and realise once more that those two long awaited weeks off have just been that, funny old things.  They don’t change your life, holidays, they don’t provide the kind of time that somehow or other create a new you, different, someone who is doing all the things you never have time for. .. 

I did not write that book, I did not write those stories, in fact I did not even read as many books as I usually do and the reading did not provide the kind of stimulus I had expected from all the books I had hauled along with me.  Most of them came back unopened, some did not keep me absorbed at all.

P1010088 view on Falmouth  from coastal path- compressed

P1010095 coastal path nr Charlestown Cornwall - compressedCornwall proved a bit of a conundrum in that we obviously had booked the wrong cottage at the wrong end of it.  Once we had exhausted ourselves with walks along the coastal paths in spitting rain interpersed with galloping clouds chasing a couple of sunny spells,  once we  had sampled the seafood served in the restaurants in the village, and once we had gone further afield to visit the lost gardens of Heligan, been on the ferry to Falmouth and sat on the terrace of some beautifully secluded beach hotels,  once we had done all that we decided to pack up all our books, computers and further belongings, stack it back in the car and drive home.  Yes, we did have our laptops, only there was no internet access anywhere in or around the cottage, and even the mobile telephone connections were intermittent and crackling…   I can hear you all say, how wonderful and fantastic to live so close to nature, so cut off fromeverything, only it was more like being thrown back into the fifties than anything so romantic as ‘nature’.  No, home comforts were  the better bet and so the second week has been spent in utter bliss pottering around the house, the garden, the local shops and yes, even the Norfolk beach, which was exactly what it should be on a mildly sunny summer day: a long stretch of white sand, white clouds, warm sun, and a calm breeze.  Why go all the way to Cornwall (an 8-hour drive, including holdups) when you have it all on your doorstep?  That’s a lesson learned.  Next year, if all goes well, we’ll opt for another hot and sunny spot somewhere in the mediterranean, with good food, guaranteed sunshine, a place with easy access (let’s be honest, I’m not someone who enjoys ‘basic living’, I need my comforts, including internet access and comfy chairs to read in, preferably situated outside somewhere, and wooden tables to put my laptop on and, yes, telephone access).

And the books I read or half-read?  Here it goes, even if I am not in the mood to write full reviews, I’ll let you have them with some cryptic comments:

Before leaving I mentioned being disappointed with Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  Undaunted, I decided to take her latest book ‘Home’ with me.  I suspected that I might have been in the wrong mood when trying Gilead as I can see, and appreciate, how well Robinson writes.  Her sentences and use of language are perfect, she knows how to evoke the astmosphere of Gilead, the characters in her stories.  Reading Home, I realised that I don’t like the stories, I don’t like the characters, there is something unappealing in the small town living, I wanted to shake them up, in particular the sister Gloria from whose perspective the story of her brother, Jack, is told.  Perhaps that is the intention of the book, but I found my impatience running out, in particular as I could not for the world of me believe that Jack was real: someone so insiduously bad (is the implication), who nevertheless comes across as quite a normal person in his rebellion against all the small mindedness of the village, and the religious bigotry.  I realise that this has very much to do with my own impatience with it (which has a very long history) and so perhaps this is just the wrong book for me.   Well written, yes, but not one that I enjoyed reading that much.

To perk myself up I read le Carre’s A Most Wanted Manle Carre never fails, I’ve loved all his books, the stories about le Carre - A most wanted manspies, about the east-west divide, the moral questions about political beliefs and convictions and the shadiness of such dogma’s.  This book draws you into the world of Issa, an illegal immigrant in Hamburg and into the world of extraordinary rendition, treachery and convictions about doing the right thing.  Issie is hunted by the English, German and American secret services but it is not altogether clear whether this is because he has actually carried out acts of terrorism or whether it is simply because he has previously been tortured by the Russians and hence is a suspect.  Issie is a moslem and a Czechian.    Le Carre’s writing is as subtle as ever and characters are revealed little by little until at the end we learn the cruel and devastating ways of intelligence and counterintelligence that takes no notice of human beings.  Definitely a book to take with you if you are going anywhere on holiday.

Enough for one day – I’ll write about the other books in my next post. I have read The Looming Tower – Al Qaeda’s Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright (excellent), half read Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao (too many  Spanish references, to many allusions to graphic characters that I don’t know anything about – great writing though) and have now picked up Stieg Larsson’s The Girl who Played with Fire (cannot put it down – am cursing myself for having bought the hardback version and not waited for the paperback: cannot possibly haul this around with me on the train next week!).

And then of course there’s the news that keeps us busy reading the newspapers: the green revolution in Iran,  the encroaching swine flu, the continued recession and so many other things.  The Sunday papers are waiting to be read, and then there’s the start of a full working week tomorrow, including visits to London and Wales.  What’s new?


  1. Good to see you back, I often think a holiday at home is the best kind!

    I haven’t read Robinson yet, simply because her subject matter strikes me as dull. Her writing is supposed to be beautiful though, so I might try it one day.

    It is hard to go past Le Carre, I’m working my way through the Smiley books at the moment.

  2. adevoted reader: and nice to see you around again as well! I realise now how much I appreciate my own home (and garden) and feel hugely relaxed.
    As far as Robinson is concerned, yes, dull is perhaps the right way of putting it – so much nicer!

  3. Holidays at home are heaven. As long as you don’t spend too much time cleaning and other bothersome things like that, it is so peaceful to enjoy a day to yourself.

    I don’t think I would enjoy an entire week without internet, but if necessary, I guess I might not mind too much.

  4. Kim: oh no, definitely no cleaning! Just reading and picking out the books you like the look of at that moment, doing some gentle gardening, go for a walk, a bicyle ride, or whatever you fancy. But definitely no cleaning… I do think internet is a must if only to look up the odd thing that you come acorss when reading the papers, or a book – and of course, to keep up with your blog!

  5. Wonderful pictures! the seagrass the path the sky. And good for you to call it quits and go to the comfort and beauty of your own home. I enjoyed your comments about books and reading and appreciated your take on HOME which I was toying with but denied. I had forgotten about Le Carre – sounds like the perfect thing since I’ve exhausted myself with chick lit and magazines.
    Great to hear from you. Yes, I am also back at work and wondering…why. Well, I know why, but I have decided to jump out of my seat far more often…and play music, too (even though it challenges the fluency of my at-work PC!)

  6. oh: and how nice to see you around again! We’re probably toying with the same denial syndrome and coming to terms! Life’s too short, isn’t it? Or perhaps there are just so many aspects you can enjoy and live with… Yes, there’s music and all these other things which together should satisfy our needs… Work, well, it’s only part of it, however important it seems during the day – always hard to keep the balance. Reading is another very important bit of the puzzle…. and no, I just did not like Home…. 😦 and do try le Carre: he challenges at a different level.

  7. Just popped in to see how you were doing. Long time no see, seachanges, I expect everything goes alright with you and your family. I see you still are keeping your lovable books, and although it doesn’t seem so to you I’ve noticed changes in your writing and your way of thinking, which are really pleasant to observe.

  8. Jose: lovely to see you and indeed – long time no see; although I have popped across to yours every so often, but realised there was not much activity?! I have missed your visits and always appreciate your observations…. Hope the island is not too sweltering – I have gone without mediterranean sun this year and it’s slowing me down, I need to shake off the English weather, which is too unpredictable.

  9. Your “seachanges” title doesn’t prove to be true this year. I know you need to change airs for a time after having being so long abroad. Well, that happens. I can only wish you all the best and assure you I’ll be visiting more often from now on.

    This blog baits me. LOL

  10. By the way I’m using a new blog in three languages: English, French and Spanish. The old one I still keep but I see this new one gives more help and saves more time. It’s Google:

  11. Hurrah! I am not alone in failing to see the wondrousness of Marilynne Robinson. “there is something unappealing in the small town living, I wanted to shake them up, in particular the sister Gloria” Exactly. Was Jack so bad? No – just the only nearly normal character in the book,

  12. Jose: I like the view! Will add it to my blogroll and make sure I visit this one – very impressive, a trilingual blog… I’ll have to give your Spanish pieces a miss I’m agraid.

    Tom Culiffe: What a relief to find someone else who has had the same experience with the Robinson books. I am much more in thrall with Stieg Larsson’s characters…

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