Favourite Jane Austen novel?

I know a LOT of people are writing blogs about Jane Austen and one or another of her books, and there are more polls to do with Jane Austen than you can shake a fan at, but I wanted to get in on the action.

Without a doubt my favourite is Pride and Prejudice. I know it’s a cliché but I can’t help it. It has to be one of the most romantic novels ever, and the wonderful way you can keep rereading it and finding more layers (see my post Mr Darcy #1 )keeps it fresh and exciting. Besides, who doesn’t read it and secretly want to knock their heads together right at the beginning? Come on, own up. And getting into a book that much right from the start, for me, is a sign of a really fabulous story.

Runner up? Northanger Abbey. It takes a couple of readings maybe, but the parody of the gothic novel is very funny, and Catherine is an endearing heroine who most teenagers can identify with. Particularly if they also have a slightly overactive imagination!

So let me know what your favourite book is. I’ve done my first poll, below (hopefully anyway), or send me a comment.


Mr Darcy #1

I have recently started re-reading Pride and Prejudice, and one of the many wonderful things about this book is that no matter how many times you read it, you always find something new.

I am probably well behind the times on this, I have no doubt there are loads of people who would read this and say “dur! obviously!”, but bear with me, because I have one minute of believing myself to be a literary genius and I want to make the most of it.

Although Darcy’s manners are continually pointed out as being aloof, arrogant, haughty, and generally not a fun guy to be around, Jane Austen makes a point of telling us early in the book that:

“Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper, though no disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own,”

and again a short time later:

“in spite of [Darcy’s] asserting that [Elizabeth’s] manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.”

Is it not odd that a man who is so sure of his own worth as to be above being pleased by anyone who does not meet his lofty standards should be specifically drawn to these people because of their more informal, easy manners? And the people in question are not casual acquaintances, they are his closest friend and his future wife. Is this another clue from Austen that there is more to Darcy’s lack of social skills than mere pride and arrogance?

It is also, to me at least, odd that the people who share his apparent fastidiousness are Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine, yet he does not appear to do more than tolerate their company. He certainly shows a marked preference for talking to Elizabeth or Bingley above these two. Anyway, I haven’t got all that far on this reading yet, so I may be eating these words later.

I just thought it was interesting that it was not Bingley’s wealth and fashionable habits that endear him to Darcy, or Elizabeth’s intelligence, but the complete opposite of his own manners. Is there a possibility that he is, even deep down, hoping to acquire some of their ‘easy and unaffected’ manners rather than his usual attitude? It will be interesting to go through the rest of the book with this question in mind.

Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

This, for me, changes everyday. There are a couple of constants that I cling onto, geared around family: I would like to think our third child was either here or about to make an appearance; I would like us to be realistically be thinking about buying a house (maybe in France?), instead of being perennial tenants; I will of course be 2 stone lighter.

The thing that really changes for me is my current ambition, and as it has taken me this long to work out what I want out of life, what I would do if I could do anything, it’s not surprising that I’ve had more career plans than hot dinners. But then, haven’t most people?

I have seen myself as a teacher (reluctantly!), a nurse, a counsellor. I have seen myself going back to old career options such as nursery nursing and interpreting. None of those, although fantastic jobs, are the thing I would do if I could do anything. I have learned a lot from the many pies that my fingers have been in in the past, but they are in the past, and I will probably only revisit them as hobbies or for interest’s sake.

My husband has lately been lucky enough to get into a position (I mean situation, not employment position) where he can finally start to work towards his dream, which is graphic design. He is very talented, and now he can really start to show that talent off and develop it, to the point where his five year goal of being self-employed in that business is easily achievable. He has been very excited lately about it, and has been encouraging me to think about my dream more seriously, and the one thing that I would do if I could is be a writer. I have often scribbled things down, started stories, and had dozens of characters chatting to each other in my head, which can be very disconcerting!

I have never before thought that I could actually be a writer, however. Not a big famous one, not earning thousands in advances with people queueing for days to be at my booksigning. Although I have to admit, it’s a nice thought. But just to get a novel finished, and I have several on the go at the minute, that is my five year plan. A published novel, maybe a couple more nearly done, and the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve actually gone for it.

Oh, and the house in France. All donations accepted.

What needs cleaning in our house?

So, I want some inspiration for today’s blog, as I am newly determined to be disciplined and write something everyday. If it turns out that I am merely churning out reams of rubbish and not getting any ‘real’ writing done, I’ll rethink this plan, but it’s a start.

I recently discovered http://www.creativity-portal.com which has lots of inspirational prompts and ideas on there. Well worth a look by the way, I especially like the photo a day picture prompt, although it hasn’t actually worked for me as yet! There is also a prompt generator, and today it came out with the title above – “What needs cleaning in your house?” This gave me a giggle, as it a fairly long list, so I thought I would write about it. Also, if I write about it, I might actually do the cleaning…?

Anyway, here we go. First of all, EVERYTHING needs constant cleaning. We have a toddler. Say no more. Even things that you don’t think need cleaning, do. For example, Daniel today decided that what our cream living room walls really needed was red crayon. So I spent time scrubbing a portion of the wall, and am now fairly convinced that that part is showing the rest of the wall up. I might get Daniel to continue around the living room then eventually I will be motivated to clean the rest.

We also need to spring clean every room in the house. Obviously the bathrooms need doing again, I am shockingly bad at scrubbing the sinks.What else? Well Andrew cleaned the living room windows yesterday, so in theory they shouldn’t need doing although the other rooms do. Except that clean windows have a magnetic attraction for grubby little boy hands. I am awaiting funding to do the scientific research to back this up.

The problem is, of course, that there is always something better to do. Usually this is sitting around thinking about what I could be doing. I would like to call this planning, or seeking inspiration, but sadly it’s just sitting around. I could be a better mother, wife, ‘homemaker’, or writer, if I didn’t spend so long thinking about being all those things. I’m far too busy doing nothing to waste time on cleaning. And there is the additional problem that if I do spend some time cleaning and really putting my back into it (don’t laugh Andrew, it does happen occasionally), I don’t want anyone to use whatever I’ve cleaned and mess it up again. It’s like ironing – why do people insist on wearing the clothes I’ve ironed and crumpling them all up again?

So if anyone does have any ideas on how to get really motivated and organised so that cleaning becomes a sheer joy in itself, please let me know. I’m sure my husband will be very grateful.

A quick note…

…just to say that dishwashers really are a mummy’s best friend.

We had poached salmon, new potatoes and steamed veg for tea last night. At the end of the meal there were loads of dishes, pans, mess. Five minute job and you’re done.

Nice clean room, and I can sit down and pretend to write. Fab.

There is only one thing that, in my humble opinion, beats a dishwasher. A multicooker. Ours is the Cookshop Gourmet Multicooker, and I cannot now imagine life without it. We occasionally, as last night, have a meal that has not been partially or totally cooked in the multicooker, but it is pretty rare now. This machine is wonderful, you can prepare almost any food, you use NO OIL (Yes! Even for bacon and eggs!), and it literally takes five minutes to clean. You heat it up a tiny bit, wipe it with a bit of kitchen roll or a clean dry cloth, and that’s it. I cannot recommend this enough, especially to other mummies!

Girls night in

We (me and my best friend) rarely have time without our little boys. The boys are both around 2 years old, so this is not surprising. Therefore, any time we get to be girls rather than mums is precious and a major event.

Recently we had a whole four or five hours without any children, husbands, responsibilities, etc, and firmly agreed to let our hair down and enjoy some wine and grown-up conversation. Excellent.

So how come on at least 3 separate occasions that night did we end up listening to/dancing to/discussing/watching The WIGGLES?!

For once, we did not have small children shouting for Big Red Car or Race to the Rainbow, yet we still ended dancing the Bump-A-Deedle. What madness is this? Are we now brainwashed into being unable to go a couple of hours without children’s television?

Help me. Please.

Bless their cotton socks!

Have you noticed how you can say anything you want about someone, as long as you follow it up with “Bless ’em”?

Seriously, most of the time you are harmlessly discussing someone – a celebrity, a mutual friend, your children – and drop in random “bless ’em”s all over the place, thinking nothing of it. Then you get on to someone you really, really don’t like, or find annoying, or are even just not quite sure of. And immediately after feeling bad for saying “x, y or z”, you make yourself feel better by saying “bless ’em”. I’m not quite sure what the psychology is. Am I trying to kid myself into thinking I am talking affectionately or objectively about this person?

Anyway, now that I’ve noticed this, I shall watch what I am saying about people. Probably.