Archive for May, 2011

Since the late 60s I’ve had a favorite writer, one I have blogged about in the past. She wrote under her maiden name, D.E. Stevenson, though in “real life” she was known as Mrs. James Peploe.  She was born in  “the Lighthouse Stevensons” family of engineers who built, among other things, the lighthouses around the dangerous rocky waters of Scotland. Her father’s first cousin was Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fame. One of her husband’s uncles was Samuel Peploe, an artist of the Scottish Colorist school.

For 44 years I’ve been enjoying her 40 novels and have more than one copy of all of them. Of course I read a lot of other books, and reread a number of other favorite authors, but she is my default author.

And since 1997 when I was a co-founder of a discussion list of her books, I’ve had an ongoing conversation with friends who also love these books, and meetings with them, both in Boston where her manuscripts and papers are housed in the special collections library of Boston University, and last summer when we met in Edinburgh and also visited North Berwick where the Stevenson clan had their summer vacations when she was growing up, and Moffat, a lovely town in the Scottish borders to which she and her husband retired after Glasgow was seriously bombed during WWII.

Her novels are sometimes classified as “romance” but all her fans realize there is a lot more going on, not that there is anything wrong with romance in life or books. And some of her works are beginning to be rediscovered and reprinted by some of the small new niche publishers such as Persephone Books and Bloomsbury Press. Miss Buncle’s Book has been a top seller for Persephone since they brought it out, and just a few weeks ago they had the launch of the sequel, Miss Buncle Married. These are warmhearted and very amusing books. I’ve often lent them to friends who were having difficulties in their lives. I read them then myself.

For many years I’ve thought I had read all of her books, with the exception of one of two early books of poetry, The Starry Mantle, which I think I could read in person at a few major libraries such as The National Library of Scotland, but nowhere else.  And when, years ago, I finally tracked down a copy of Five Windows and realized it was the last of her books I would be reading for the first time, I was quite sad.

Then something wonderful happened. Her younger son John passed three boxes of papers on to his niece Penny and when she was going through them she discovered the manuscripts for two unpublished books her grandmother had written. After a time, and with the help of  a Dessie ( what her fans from the reading group call ourselves) a publisher was found for these books, Emily Dennistoun, probably written in the 1920s when she was learning her craft and The Fair Miss Fortune, written in the 30s when some of her funniest books were penned. DES was between publishers at the time, and it was never published and WWII began and her books changed somewhat.

Now these two rather unread treasures have been published by Greyladies Press in Edinburgh, a company associated with The Old Children’s Bookshelf there which many of us visited last summer.

I now have two copies of each. One to keep on my DES shelves and a copy of each to lend out.

Emily Dennistoun

The Fair Miss Fortune

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Clara still loves trains..........

I have all the plants for the deck assembled and the new planters I bought. There all sitting under the umbrella to try to keep them out of the rain. But we are having sunshine, too…….Every once in a while it is glorious and golden! Still, I feel seriously sad for the bloggers I read who live  in Texas and France who are longing for the heavens to weep down upon them!

Sofia loves riding.....Her Aunt Nali in Germany has a horse..........

I’m making sunshine inside looking at some recent pictures of my grandchildren, all within the last month….

Fia, Nathan, Stephen and Clara at Lake Farm Park

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Perhaps it should say, “travels without a camera”, alas….It has been super busy for the last week, and I drove to Pennsylvania to spend the Mother’s Day weekend with Em and Co. and managed to leave my camera in Ohio…Oh, so mad at myself. The little girls were so darling and full of smiles and playfulness. I’m going to have to keep them in my memory. I was invited for a party at their school, the one run by the Penn State Education Department, on Friday afternoon. Amazingly I arrived right on time straight from a four hour drive from Ohio. This is the first time I’ve seen their school and it’s clear that it is a great fit for them. After a tour of the classroom and a visit to the tadpole tank we were all treated to strawberry shortcake made by the kids with help from their teacher. They even cut up all the strawberries with small plastic knives. Miss Edie mentioned that Sofia has excellent hand eye coordination. I think all the art work she does every day must surely help with this.

Sometimes I forget how busy things can seem with a one and a half year old and a three and a half year old busy, busy, busy in a small house. Thank heaven for quiet time after lunch, and naps. It was a wonderful if too short visit and I know that I’m going to miss them a lot next Spring when they spend six months in Budapest. Though I do plan to visit there too!

Emily won a Fulbright Scholarship and will be working on a research project with colleagues she met last summer when she was in Hungary. The whole family will be there…She will be studying American Goldenrod, an invasive plant in Europe! (And an invasive plant in the USA, too.)  We are very proud of her, all of us.

The picture below shows Alice and Stephen on Easter Sunday.

Alice and Stephen at Easter

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Sic Transit

That would be “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,”  or “thus passes the glory of the world…..”

A somewhat silly comment about the murals I’ve painted for my children and grandchildren (and two my mother painted, one for me and two for my brothers) all of which have in time been painted over…….

My mother painted silhouettes of nursery rhymes on my wall and I still have a photo of it, Jack and Jill struggling up their hill, and Bo Peep and Little Miss Muffet with the spider descending…For my brothers she did a lovely circus scene.

I painted a wall with Mickey Mouse dancing for my daughter Alice, in our first house.  When we sold it, they painted the walls a rather dark purple. I vowed  never again to paint a mural on a wall. But I did.

I painted a mural of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy on the bedroom wall of Alice and Emily’s room in our second house. And when we moved I am sure the new owners repainted the walls.  On my son’s bedroom I painted a large mural in the style of Hungarian artist Reich Karoly (Charles Reich in English) with castle and knight  on horseback,  trees, pond with geese, flowers, birds in the sky. But when he was older we painted over it, though I have pictures of this too, somewhere.

And at Alice’s request I painted the mural pictured below on the wall of Nathan’s bedroom the summer before he was born, the summer of 2004. It is the story of a Hungarian folk tale in which a rooster who belongs to a poor but sweet old lady finds a diamond button (or, I think a coin with a similar name) which he is thrilled to be able to give to his mistress to help her out. But before he can do this, it is stolen by a Turkish pasha.  (Remember, Hungary was ruled by the Ottoman Turks for 150 years, from the disaster at Mohacs in 1526 A.D. until the end of the 1600s.) In the story as in many fairy tales, cleverness is much more important than power, and the rooster employs many amazing tricks which end with the pasha  having his pants full of angry stinging bees whereupon he returns the treasure to the rooster who gives it to the poor old lady who is overjoyed.

The painting, which never wholly pleased me, features the special gate of farms in Transylvania, and the Lombardy poplars (much loved by Hungarians) and Carpathian mountains in the background, along with the bees and pasha and triumphant rooster with a coin in his bill…….

But now, it is only in this digital image because bedrooms have been changed and color schemes altered. And this is the way of all murals, and perhaps of all that comes into existence. And we have to be happy it existed and not sad that it is now gone with the wind that sweeps all away.

Mural for Nathan.......The Diamond Button

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I became a mother of a baby girl named Alice Isabella, who has been a joy and a wonder ever since!

Well, I guess since it’s after midnight it was really thirty-six years ago yesterday!

It was the day South Vietnam Surrendered and the news was full of those images, but there was really only one very important image in my heart, my little girl. Paul and I were filled with joy.  She has been and is a wonderful daughter, wife, mother, friend, mechanical engineer, creative person, amazingly accomplished cook and artist when she has time. She’s thoughtful, observant, and intuitive. She supported us all during her Dad’s illness and death.

And she’ll say that whatever I say about her doesn’t count because I’m her mother, but I’m not the only one who says these things.

Alice and her sons

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