We love books! Maybe you do too! It occurred to me that a website about Lambhill is not complete without a page devoted to sharing pictures and thoughts on some of the books we enjoy here. …Latest posts at the bottom….

John Derian’s Picture Book:

This is the “Picture Book” by John Derian (Artisan, 2016). It is a large, heavy hardback book, full of reproductions of all kinds of fascinating ephemera that the Designer has collected from flea markets all over the place! At Lambhill, just now, we keep the book on the big table in our Sitting Room, and every day, one of us opens it at a new picture for the day. We love it. We have just paid a lot of money to buy a second copy of the book, which we are going to dismantle so that we can paper a bedroom in the images. Below, are a few photos showing some of the pages:
I absolutely love these two images. Very Victorian, very Loudon-esque. Rather grander than Lambhill’s garden, but in the same genre.
I love this too: I have my own idea of what the story might be behind it; Jonathan imagines the backstory differently; that’s the joy of ambiguity and loss of context!
This is the final image from Derian’s book. It reminds me of the film version of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” with Reese Witherspoon dreaming romantic thoughts, and casting Rupert Everett as a knight in shining armour…. The man peeping at this young dreamer, however, looks rather creepy….

Books in General on our Shelves at Lambhill

Page-markers with notes!!!

The Art of Beatrix Potter, by Emily Zach (Chronicle Books, 2016)

This book has one main fault, for me: it needs about five differently-coloured woven-silk ribbons sewn into its spine as page markers!!! It is the kind of book I want to go back and look intently into again, at specific pages…

Beatrix Potter’s feeling for place and atmosphere attracts and pleases me. Beauty matters to her, and she records jotted memories of places in words and art, sometimes to use them later, in her children’s books. She recalled her grandparents’ house, Camfield Place, in words that could equally well describe Lambhill (p63): “a good-sized small-roomed house of no particular pretensions.”

To quote Emily Zach: “In her 1891 essay, “Memories of Camfield Place,” …Beatrix tenderly describes the strange “geography” and quiet beauty of the old sections of the house: odd passageways larger than actual rooms, a yellow-stained window where she would daydream… doors that opened “without rhyme or reason …and sunlight dimples on the whitewashed ceiling.”

Beatrix Potter was a careful observer of detail; her paintings were noted for their scientific accuracy.

We all love Miss Potter’s story-telling ability – in pictures as well as in words. Her humour is as delightful as her observation!

Inspired by “The Art of Beatrix Potter:” A Discussion of Foregrounds – With Jane Austen

Over my years at Lambhill, I have thought a great deal about FOREGROUNDS! As you know, we have wonderfully extensive views across the landscape here, but I have instinctively found our views too wide and broad for the eye’s comfort: I think enormous landscapes need a little structural guidance to direct them, and to rest the eye in its travels, and have concluded that I prefer views with a satisfying foreground, a focal point, and possibly even some kind of a frame… just as I prefer landscape paintings with these attributes. This is one reason for my putting a loop of gravel driveway across the Lambhill meadow!

Look at this watercolour of Beatrix Potters, from Emily Zach’s book: here, Miss Potter paints as open and extensive a view as we have from Lambhill. But notice that she has included what the landscapers thought the view needed: a little structure. The urn, tiny strip of lawn, and corner of gravel are not very obtrusive, but look at the picture with and without these man-made additions (cover them up and then uncover them), and you’ll see what I mean about their enhancing the view.

In Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey,” the wonderful Henry Tilney, on a walk with his sister and the young Catherine Morland, discusses the landscape they are looking at: “They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability* of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost…. He talked of fore-grounds, distances, and second distances – side-screens and perspectives – lights and shades; and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar, that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath, as unworthy to make part of a landscape.” I think Henry Tilney is quite right, and that foregrounds, at least, are important elements of a long View Over Landscape! This lovely watercolour of Beatrix Potter’s illustrates the point too, by framing the distant view in an engaging foreground that leads the eye into her picture. As gardeners, and especially as gardeners in the country, foregrounds occupy our minds when we are composing landscapes. I’m sure Henry Tilney would have many more brilliantly witty things to say about this painting than I do: side-lights, perspectives…! (I do love that young gentleman, though he is only fictional!) [*A reference to the great landscaper, “Capability” Brown??]

In Jane Austen’s novels, the debate is open: “Impose a Foreground on a view – or Open Up The Prospect?” In “Mansfield Park,” her characters discuss landscape beautification, and Humphrey Repton’s work, several times. Here is Mr Rushworth: “‘Smith’s place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand. I think I shall have Repton.'” Later, he continues, “There have been two or three fine old trees cut down that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down…'”

This is the new driveway loop as a foreground to the view, with all the building debris left in a melancholy manner, when the builders had to pause their work for another New Zealand-wide covid-19 lockdown, late August 2021.

Writers’ Houses, by Francesca Premoli-Droulers (Paperback, 7Dials, 1999).

From the prologue, by Marguerite Duras: “It is only inside a house that one is truly alone… One is never alone in a garden. Inside the house, though, one is so alone that one can sometimes lose oneself. And so I have lived for ten years, as I now realize. Alone. But this has enabled me to write books that have made me and others understand what I am as a writer… the kind of solitude I have known at Neuphle was created by me and for me. And it is only in this house that I am truly alone as a writer …one does not find solitude, one creates it. ,,,My books come out of this house. From this light, from this garden. From the light reflected from the pond. …I believe this house exists for many things. It consoles me for all my childhood misery. In buying it, I knew right away that I had done something important for myself, something decisive.”

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)’s writing room in Denmark.
Lawrence Durrell’s house…. Love his humour. Lawrence’s brother Gerald was also a famous writer.
From William Faulkner’s garden: “It was a vintage year for wistaria …sweet conjunction of root, bloom and urge and hour and weather” – from Faulkner’s “Absolom, Absolom!”
Dylan Thomas’s writing hut.
Selma Lagerlof’s kitchen.
Where Jean Giono wrote his books. He used to jot ideas in notebooks – even in the dark of night. I do this too; do you?

A point worth noticing from this book: the relationship between a writer and their house – “where they acquired perhaps a taste for solitude, and certainly the urgency to write.” Solitude is necessary to some writers (though not to all), and a special house is often the best place for cultivating that essential quiet and space. Francesca Premoli-Droulers bears this out in her book, where she states that, Herman Hesse “could write only when alone;” Selma Lagerlof was, “like a lover who lived hidden away in her own world;” and Vita Sackville-West, at Sissinghurst Castle, “grew ever more ‘wild’ & solitary.”

Another point worth noticing from this book is the way some houses embody a Romantic need for an “Other” place where imagination can flourish aside from the ordinary routines and expectations of daily life. Mark Twain and Sir Walter Scott both built themselves fantasy houses. Twain called his enormous turreted villa his “aerie” – and Vita Sackville-West wrote in the isolated tower at Sissinghurst Castle. The poet Yeats, even bought himself an ancient Irish tower to live in. A room of one’s own? Better still, for a writer, an interesting house of one’s own!

Books on the Lambhill Shelves, c.March 2022.

A few Shakespeare plays given me by descendants of Dr Allison.

It’s a bit faint to read, but the far-right-hand book is titled, “Turn Around And Run Like Hell!” It’s a compilation of war stories. The big red one next to it is worth hunting for: It’s “An Anthology of War Diarists” and a really interesting record from all countries and times.

Hunting for Angela Thirkell Books Online…

When we were living in a tent some months ago, down on Spin and Joan Sutherland’s lawn, I was reading a lot of books from their enormous collected library. Amongst their mother’s old novels, I discovered the works of Angela Thirkell, who borrowed the settings and families from Anthony Trollope, who wrote “Barchester Towers,” “The Warden,” and many other great Victorian novels, and continued the stories into the twentieth century. Her novels are light-hearted and witty, but also charming. Online, I found four Angela Thirkells to begin my collection. They arrived in the post from a second-hand bookshop in Cornwall, England, and they have been delicious to disappear into. These four books are all cheap wartime editions, but at least they are hardback, and I know I will want to read them again and again… and look for more! Hurrah for online bookshops; it is exciting to receive a parcel in your letterbox!

Other Wordly; words both strange and lovely from around the world, by Yee-Lum Mak.

This satisfying little book is illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, and was published in 2016 by Chronicle Books.

Don’t you agree: there should be a great many more picture books for adults published, than is currently the case! Of course, there is no reason why adults can’t acquire “children’s” picture books either, but really, we adults need our own too! Here are a few images from “Other Wordly:”

If the words are too small, in this image, for you to read: (On the left page,) “Gokotta (noun, Swedish). Lit[erally], “dawn picnic to hear the first birdsong;” the act of rising in the early morning to watch the birds, or go outside to appreciate nature. (On the right page,) Komorebi (noun, Japanese), the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.”

One of the words in this book which I was glad to learn, having had Swedish ancestors perching on one branch of my family tree, is “smultronstalle,” which is “the place of wild strawberries,” and can be applied to, “a special place discovered. treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation,” or “a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.” …..I do recommend this book – for your own private shelf, as well as for a gift for your likeminded friends.

And I hope you have a smultronstalle of your own! Lambhill is ours! And, by the way, I reintroduced wild strawberries to the Lambhill garden, after I learned that Spin and Joan’s aunts had used them on the edges of some flower borders here, in earlier days. I have red-berrying ones, as well as white-berrying ones, and their flavours are delicately aromatic, and far more subtle and interesting than the usual, hybridised large strawberries:

Here is a white wild strawberry plant which the birds must have seeded into the path round the Sunken Garden!

1879 Set of Waverley Novels by Walter Scott…

I bought this set ages ago, from a second-hand bookshop, because these are the sort of novels it’s good to have at hand for when you are convalescing from a virus and have to rest! I do like the illustrations!

Very Lambhillish, with wild forests and fallow deer!

Sooo Romantic and swoony and Victorian! So sentimental and “fainting in coils….” And why not, either! May as well put on your Victorian hat and enjoy it all!

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