Brenda Squires - Author Therapist and Artist

November 2021 newsletter

Welcome to my newsletter

I hope you’ve been keeping well since we were in contact. I am writing to let you know of my new email address: brenda@brendasquires.com for all exchanges to do with this blog and related issues.

I am thrilled to be starting up this blog. Ever since the days I came to books through Enid Blyton and to writing through scribbling my first poems about rainbows and storms, I have been hooked. I love reading and writing. And since Lockdown I have intensified my interest in painting. I’d like to invite you to my online monthly blog, which is aimed primarily at artists, readers and writers. I’d like to create an on line community in these areas. Clearly I will safeguard your privacy and will not pass on your email address. And you are, of course, at liberty to unsubscribe at any time.

Autumn leaves

John Keats poem to Autumn sums up for me this time of year. The season of pumpkins and falling leaves is upon us. Time to hunker down with a good book by the fire or wrap up and go out for a bracing walk?

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core
 …’

I’ve just been to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Because of Covid it’s actually become an autumn/winter exhibition and does not finish until January. As usual it is a huge smorgasbord of paintings, installations, and architect’s models: a bringing together of works of members of the Academy and outsiders. This year the theme is: Reclaiming Magic. In the Zeitgeist of reclamation and righting past wrongs the exhibition has a strong African and Black Lives Matter content. I found it a vibrant and stimulating collection. Many paintings are still for sale with prices ranging from £50 to half a million. Old favourites such as Ken Howard and Philip Sutton are there too.

This catalogue cover picture above is Fatou by Amoako Boafo and below is Ken Howard’s San Marco from Calle Larga Ascensione

Cop 26 has finally arrived. We watch proceedings with hope mingled with fear. Will the great and powerful actually manage to come up with any binding agreements? Will we keep carbon emissions to an acceptable limit? Is it too late to save our beautiful planet or, more precisely to keep it a suitable habitat for the errant human race –the earth could, after all, shrug us off as a bad experiment and start again! Can we learn how to live in harmony with nature, let alone with each other? Big questions. But with so much at stake we hope good sense and cooperation will prevail. In West Wales we hosted our own Loving the earth event with songs, poems and stories to give a boost to the collective spirit of awareness, celebration and responsibility. The evening was well received with over forty in attendance. Especially memorable was the storytelling of Daniel Morden who combines the skills of poet and storyteller: in facet, a an ace bard.

Books: I’ve been reading.

Rachel Trezise Easy Meat

Welsh writer Rachel Trezise has produced a short novel in the vein of: A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In Easy Meat Trezise describes a day in the life of Caleb Jenkins, ex-reality star who works in a slaughterhouse in a South Wales valley. But it is not any old day, it is June 23rd 2016, the day Britain decides whether or not to leave the EU. Like others around him, Caleb is on a knife-edge. The writing is tight, empathic and never lets the reader off the hook as the author explores the tensions and disillusions stalking the valleys and the rest of the country.

Laurie Lee As I walked out one midsummer morning

Ernest Hemingway For Whom The Bell Tolls

As background to the trilogy I’m writing I’ve been exploring the Spanish Civil war. In doing so I’ve revisited the above two books. Laurie Lee’s tale is set just before the war breaks out. Equipped with little else but a violin and an appetite for adventure the young man sets off from the West Country and heads for Spain because he knows how to ask for a drink in Spanish. In magical poetic prose Lee evokes the lost world of the heat-drenched Spanish countryside about to be plunged into chaos and mayhem. The following describes the author taking his farewell from Spain.

But I stayed on deck, watching Almuñécar grow small and Spain folding itself away – all its clamour gone, wrenched so abruptly from me, a year’s life in a few hours ended. I saw the long hard coast, which I’d trodden inch by inch, become a clinker of bronze on the skyline. Behind it the peaks of the Sierras crawling jaggedly into view, hung there suspended, then fell away – and in that instant of leaving them I felt them as never before, clutching at my senses like hands of bone. From that seaborne distance, cut off and secure, I seemed only then to begin to know that country; could smell its runnels of dust, the dead ash of its fields, whiffs of sour wine, rotting offal, and incense, the rank hide of its animals, the peppery skin of its men, the sickly tang of its fevered children. I saw again, as I lost them, the great gold plains, the arid and mystical distances, where the sun rose up like a butcher each morning and left curtains of blood each night. I could hear the talk, the cries, the Spanish-Arabic voices pitched to carry from Sierra to Sierra; the trickling sound of guitars dropping like water on water, eroding the long boredom of afternoons; and the songs, metallic, hatcheting the ear, honed with forlorn and unattainable lusts; the strangled poetry of the boys, the choked chastity of the girls, and the orgasmic outbursts of tethered beasts. All I’d known in that country – or had felt without knowing it – seemed to come upon me then; lost now, and too late to have any meaning, my twelve months’ journey gone. Spain drifted away from me, thunder-bright on the horizon, and I left it there beneath its copper clouds. An officer came up on deck and handed me a drink. ‘Shame to break up your holiday like this,’ he said. Later, a German airship passed above us, nosing inquisitively along the coast, the swastika black on its gleaming hull. To Spain, so backward and so long ignored, the nations of Europe were quietly gathering. Lee, Laurie. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (Penguin Modern Classics) (pp. 182-183). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Hemingway has become unfashionable. His love of bull-fighting, hunting Big Game his various shenanigins with wives and women and his ever-present alcoholism have long tarnished his image. But he remains a great writer. For me For whom the Bell tolls is a classic. The evocation of a guerilla band, tasked with blowing up a bridge in what we now know to be a lost cause, is second to none in the power of its descriptions, its carefully unfolding narrative and its vivid characters.

Glen Peters The day I died

And now for something completely different! Glen Peters’ pacy thriller is set in Goa. It tells the tale of Ceri from West Wales and Igor from the Ukraine. Goa is no longer the hippy paradise of the late seventies where you could hole up on the beach for weeks, enjoying coconuts, sea and sunshine. Infiltrated by gangs fighting turf wars over drugs and prostitution, it has become a theatre of secret and not–so-secret battles. A modern Romeo and Juliet, the two become caught up in the internecine beach wars. A great read.

Reading in general

It’s looking good for books. According to Google two in five (43%) Britons say they read for pleasure at least once a week, with a third (35%) doing so multiple times and 19% of UK adults reading every day. Britain’s keenest readers tend to be older, with 34% of Brits over 55 saying they read at least once a day, compared to just 7% of 18 to 24 year old. 53% of UK adults say they have read a book in the last year, and the lockdown has led more of us to e-books and shopping online… Data from Kantar’s Worldpanel division shows that the market is looking healthy, with 2.3% growth year-on-year.

How many books does the average person read UK?

Believe it or not, Britons are said to read an average of 10 books each year. Women read an average of 12 books per year, while men read an average of 8. Those aged over 55 read an average of 12 books per year, compared to just 6 for those aged 18-34 years old.

Another interesting snippet: Readability data suggest that the average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9-year-old. The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and The Sun has a reading age of 8.

Reading groups

Are they a good or bad thing? There are over two thousand in the UK and now reading group fiction is recognised as a clear publishing category. A very useful website I’ve come across is www.readinggroups.org This is a national charity which goes under the heading Reading Groups for Everyone. It celebrates reading and enables individuals to link up with reading groups in their area, for people to place reviews of books read and provides guidelines on how to set up a reading group from scratch. Worth a browse, I think.

Competition

The Bowes Museum is holding an open competition for children and adults in poetry and painting to be part of Martin Kinnear’s exhibition on the theme of Regeneration. Closing date November 28.th For details: www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk

So that’s it for this month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the time you’ve spent reading this and will decide to visit again in December. I’d be very interested in hearing your news, views and experiences of reading groups and to learn what you’ve been reading! Until then, enjoy autumn slipping into winter.

Stay safe. Stay warm. And grab an interesting book!

Please feel free to share this with any friends or contacts who you feel might be interested.

Till next time

All the best

Brenda Squires

Brenda@brendasquires.com