Tag Archives: Eva Ibbotson

In Praise of Kindness

Rearview of a man and woman clearly standing between others, all of whom have left arm round one person's waist and right arm on another person's shoulder.

A writer friend tells me that her local coffee shop has put up a sign “Kindness is the new superpower.” Several of us, all writers, had met for a cheery lunch and we all beamed. We all beamed.

For some reason, I have clung to it ever since. Possibly it is because of the international news. Or it may be that Christmas always makes me pause for thought. But this year, the world has never seemed in such need of kindness. Or so very far from showing or receiving it.

Kindness and  Conflict

box tied with white ribbon, a giftThe OED defines it as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. That sounds a bit pallid to me. Maybe it has been polluted by association with phrases like “kind of”. . It certainly doesn’t sound earth-shaking.

I always thought, probably mistakenly, that it had something to do with “kin”, with treating a stranger like a member of your family. For that is what has to happen if there is any hope of a workable future to follow this Palestinian Israeli conflict. With such atrocities on both sides, the only hope is kindness on both sides.

a chair with a wicker set stands on a a grassy slope, with a man's black jacket over its back. On the seat is an accordion, the strap looking as if the player has just put it down. Lying on the ground beside it is a pear-shaped stringed instrument, the size of a guitar, with a body strap, as if it, too, has just been taken off.At the moment that looks hopeless. But not everyone hates.

Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American Edward Said set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 to bring together musicians from both cultures in a joint project.

Maestro Barenboim wrote a heartfelt piece in October this year. “Both sides must recognise their enemies as human beings and try to empathise with their point of view, their pain and their hardship,” he says.

Kindness to Read

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Novelist, Ornithologist and War

This blog is about the unexpected confluence of three crucial strands of my life: a novelist, an ornithologist and War.

It is in one way, pure serendipity. In another it feels as if it has been waiting for me for a long time. It is sobering, yet at the same time it has brought me deep joy. The latter in particular is not at all easy, in this time of terrible news at home and abroad and I am sincerely grateful for it.

And to me it feels like a sign that I am, creatively speaking, in the right place and will find a good path.

See if you agree with me.

An Ornithologist Starts It

The triangle started to come together on 6th June. I was horrified by the wilful destruction of the Nova Kharkova Dam in Ukraine, a short sighted brutality that has caused not only great human suffering but is an ecological atrocity that will run and run.

To divert me, a friend I was visiting pointed out a robin visiting his garden. The bird seemed to have a twig in its beak.

So OK, I couldn’t just sit there for ever, radiating despair over the human condition. I aimed for a sensible question: wasn’t it a bit late for nest building?

robin

We began to talk robins. And pretty soon my host was bringing out a small, slightly worn hardback book. It had a plain parchment coloured cover with a crimson rectangle on the front bearing the title and author’s name: The Life of the Robin by David Lack. It was published in 1943 by H F and G Witherby and cost 7/6.

“It’s wonderful,” he said, patting the little book like an old friend. “Still stands up brilliantly. And it’s very readable, too. Fantastic that the publishers were allowed the paper to print it in wartime.”

I got the message. Civilisation will creep through the cracks, even in wartime. I really did begin to feel a little better. So who was he, this inspiriting author I’d never heard of? Continue reading

Reading Romance : Why do we do it?

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer with antihero the Duke of AvonThis month I’ve been thinking about reading romance. Who does it? Why? When? And, well, what qualifies as romance? Troilus and Criseyde? Jane Eyre ? Anna Karenina? These Old Shades? Gaudy Night? Bridget Jones?  Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music?

I’ve read them all and I’d say “yes but” to all of them. Many people, maybe most, would disagree with me on at least one.

On 3rd February the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association published its short list for this year’s awards.  It’s the RNA”s 60th anniversary and this year there are nine categories.

My seven stories above would each fall into at least one of them.

Love is in the Air

And then there was St Valentine’s Day last Friday. That always brings out a flurry of saccharine fluff, embarrassing stunts and grimmish think pieces in the media.

Commercialism – shock, horror! Unrealistic emotional expectations from reading romance – fie, sir, write me a sonnet or leave at once! Head for the pub, lads, and fast. Continue reading

Day 7 of 12 Days of Christmas : 7 Swans a-Swimming & Company

swan and cygnets swimmingAt least our heroine’s True Love has shifted from domestic to wild birds with the Day 7 offering. And not just a wild bird but a truly beautiful one, with mythological and poetic pedigree to boot.

The swan is one of the creatures that mates for life, according to legend and, to some extent, ornithological observation. (Not 100%, apparently; but a significant percentage of couples stick together.)

Allegedly it also sings only once, at the point of death – hence the exquisitely mournful Orlando Gibbons motet 

So at last we have here a gift with real subtext: love, loyalty and death. Not that jolly maybe. But certainly romantic. Hmm. Possibly a bit late, given the bird shit that must be surrounding his lady love’s residence by now. Continue reading

Imperfection for Writers: Good? Bad? Challenging?

 

imperfection in writing and discarded pages

Imperfection sounds bad. Yet I know all about the dangers of perfectionism. But somehow, when it comes to my writing, I never quite believe them.

It feels too easy, like part of that “everyone gets a prize” approach which I deeply mistrust. The sort of thing that makes teachers say, “Ermintrude is too easily satisfied.” Continue reading