marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
On account of it's being Mother's Day, I've realised that I haven't posted anything about my mother here yet, which is a serious oversight.

Since I'm being rather picky in what I post on this blog, these reminiscences are also picky, but, well...

Me & mom are very different personalities, and she told me once, recently, that she had had absolutely no idea what to think of and do with my little imaginative self; that one year, when I was about three, there she was with tiny me walking next to her talking about something imaginary and being a complete stranger to her. But I think she did a pretty good job for a clueless person. ;-)

For one thing, mother was indeed the person I came to with my very first creative efforts: I asked her to draw my imaginary animals for me, and clueless or not, she did a splendid job before I could do for myself. The first one, apparently, I asked for at that age of three or four much in the same manner the Little Prince asked for his sheep; except mine wasn't an existing species and wasn't in a box. (The Little Prince is, incidentally, one of my mom's favourite books.)

She is the person responsible for the first Ransome book entering this household, and while I'm not entirely certain, I think also for the Narnia books. (She certainly gave me some of mine, the ones I got next after my older sisters' original concession of leaving Prince Caspian to me because there was an odd number of them.)
The first Ransome book to enter this household was The Coot Club. There is a Czech publishing house specialising in children's books, and each half-year or so, it would send catalogues of its new books to schools, where the children would order books through the school. Our parents were always quite supportive of this venture, so I think every time, each of us could pick up to three books or so? I do remember usually carrying more books home on the day the order arrived than most of my classmates did. Anyway, one time, there was The Coot Club in the offer, and mom convinced one of my older sisters that it was worth ordering. And she was right, of course. :-)

This goes hand in hand with mom later convincing us to listen to a radio programme for children when The Coot Club was on as a serial. We had tried listening to the programme before and pretty much hated it, but it turned out each week in the month was under the direction of someone else, and there was this man whose direction we loved; he had conversations with travellers and natural scientists and writers and all sorts of interesting people, and played music we liked, and adapted books we liked for radio plays (through which means we also discovered other books we liked). You never felt like he was talking down to you or talking about things adults think children will like: he simply talked about things he liked. (Heh, hello, Lewis' priceless thoughts on these matters.) So that was another huge, formative thing we can be thankful to mom for.

Every now and then, she has this curious ability of digging up or stumbling upon something that's just what I needed and didn't know I needed it. One year, she sent me off (with my agreement) to a weekend children's trip organised by her employer, which sounds potentially awful and was actually awesome. The person organising it was another such enthusiast who was good with children because he did what he enjoyed, and I went with them at least three more times, visiting beautiful places around this country I never would have otherwise learned of, and taking my friends with me a couple of times, too.

Mom read books to us in the evenings, and sang traditional folk songs to us, and cut Christmas cookies with us, and did other such wonderful and traditional mom things when we were little.

She likes flowers and gardening, so in a roundabout way (by planting them in the first place), she's responsible for my love of phloxes, the scent of which will forever be the scent of my childhood summers.

And she's the talkative one in the family, the one who'll strike up conversations with strangers; which is how I met my best friend at the age of three. That friend whom, these days, I won't see for months and when we meet again, we'll talk like only days or weeks have passed. How that happened I don't know, but obviously, I would not be that lucky without mom being a lot more outgoing than I am.

Her birthday's next week; sometimes, it would fall on Mother's Day, which, in a childhood logic, was only natural.
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
I've just had a thought. And maybe it's wrong and putting too much stock in Lewis and his wording (which is rather unfortunate), but what if that whole sentence actually goes to show that, look, they don't have to be only one or the other, Lucy isn't limited into either being a "lady" or "more like a boy" and Aravis can still enjoy talk of clothes with a likeminded woman?

It might stink of "Aravis arrives to her destination and instantly becomes more womanly", except that Lucy's been there for years, she's the queen of that place (well, the neighbouring place), and she's clearly both. So it's more like, Aravis arrives to her destination and finds out that, phew, it's okay to be the sort of woman she is.

Because, after all, knowing our characters we do know they aren't that one-dimensional. It's kind of like Jill who's heritage of Narnia is both taking up archery and keeping the fine clothes. Or, for that matter, Susan who's a womanly woman but also good at archery and swimming (just not in a battle context).

And maybe it's obvious, but I had to write it down. :-)

marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Says a Czech proverb.
The little annoying and soul-searching experience from the previous post has just fed into the blasted transitional 19th chapter of The Peridan Chronicles that has been stalling my progress for over a year. Joy!
It's not finished yet, but it's much closer to finishing than it had been for over a year. I think you can expect it before Christmas. And the chapter after it soon after it, most likely, to make up for the long lack of updates to this story. Phew!

In other news, I've watched the Kenneth Brannagh / Emma Thompson version of Much Ado About Nothing, and enjoyed it very much, despite being distracted by the not-really-quite-accurate-for-any-time costumes (that's a trait of mine I'll always have to contend with, I fear) and the fact that I found the Dogberry scenes a bit lacking. In a funny way. Through being too much. I think he and his cohort are made more of a bunch of fools there than I find palatable in film form; it would probably work better on stage. Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson are both a joy to watch, though.
There might be some correspondence between Shakespeare and my bout of Narnianish inspiration. It's certainly an idea that bears further exploration; I have yet to see Branagh's Henry V, which is a shortcoming I should correct as soon as possible.

Oh, and I've read, so far, about a tenth or so of Augustin's Confessions. It's a strange book. It reads weirdly, like he's approaching it all from an angle I cannot penetrate; like I would have had to live at his time to really understand what he's talking about and the issues he's wrestling with and the angle he's going at it from. Or like he has a sort of thinking personality that's very foreign to me. But at the same time, in retrospect, I find that he addresses very timeless issues, which probably accounts for the timeless appeal of the book. Like the ways we relate to fiction and live through the tragedies of fictional characters. Which he disapproves of, I think, on the basis of the pagan-based theatre at his time being immoral. I wonder what he would have made of something like Shakespeare? (Shakespeare can be such a contrary animal.) And the claim Sienkiewicz makes in Quo Vadis via Paul to Petronius that informed Christian art would reach new heights? (I think of Gothic architecture and Tolkien and Lewis and stuff and find myself in tentative agreement with Sienkiewicz.) And fanfiction! He would be horrified at the majority of it.
The way he dismisses fiction, he reminds me of a man I had a conversation with once in the street, over a book of Chesterton's short stories he found in a trash can. (He dismissed it and I snatched it up afterwards. Ha!) I still haven't figured out how to make the case for fiction since then, but I think I believe in it even more strongly now. It's an interesting experience to disagree with such a hallowed book.

It's an interesting experience for me as a Czech Protestant who's fairly recently read some texts that are kind of the basis of Czech Protestantism and found myself so much in agreement with them that they were almost... superfluous to me? My sister reported the same experience with such texts; either they are so much the basis of what we grew up in that that happens, or - or it's pretty chilling to think just how bad the Catholic church of the time must have been for them to be necessary.
I think I should read more old texts like that to figure out just how much of my thinking is present there and how much isn't, and why. It's quite illuminating to see what changes with time and place and personality, and what remains constant.

And of course, there's still things one can learn from them.

marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Some days ago, my father bought a mocca pot, obstinately ignored the instructions to wash it thoroughly and cook several cups of coffee in it without drinking first ("what a waste"), and then very happily pronounced the resulting coffee as tasting exactly the way it used to. The part that boggles me is that I agree with him.
We never had one in all my memory, and neither had anyone I know. And besides, I started drinking coffee only a few years ago and still don't do that often.
The only explanation I have is that grandma has always had this percolator thing or whatever - I'm really confused about all the manners in which coffee can be prepared and the translation - which father says is basically the same thing with different anatomy (not in those words, those are mine); and I may have occasionally tasted it as a child to see if I still hated it.
I don't hate it anymore. I actually approach it like a treat. I'm slightly puzzled by that, too.

But I'm still enjoying the Yorkshire Tea - that father used to bring from Britain years ago and now ordered online - much more. Much more often. We both have a thing for "common black tea", my father and me - that's what he calls it, with carefully put on British pronunciation. How I loved its blackness when he first brought it; back then, the choice of teas in Czech shops was very dismal indeed. It's got better (even the awful awful cheap Czech brand of tea has got slightly better since it's not Czech anymore, I think; in this particular case, being bought off by an international concern was not a bad thing, because the concern is Indian). But Yorkshire Tea is still a class unto itself which I love with all the calm fierceness I imagine English people might love their tea.

* * *

I wonder what my various not-Czech online acquaintances would think of the relish with which I devour bread with lard, salt and fresh onion these days, another blast from the past. (It started a few days ago with the need to consume vitamins in this autumnal time and being left with onions in the house, but by now it's just an excuse.) The trick is, it has to be processed lard, not that sticky soapy pressed stuff. And Czech or similar bread; it would not work with white bread or bread that is somewhat too sweet in taste.
Years ago, a visiting Irish vegetarian man was horrified by the relish with which I ate a similar combination in a pub. I'm not sure what horrified him more, the fact that it was blatantly meat-based, or the blatant amount of fat a young slip of a girl like me was eating without concern. With fresh onion.
 
* * *
 
I'm sewing a corset. It's my first properly boned Victorian-ish corset (corded Regency stays don't count in this context); I'm making it for my sister, and, partially due to my lack of experience, it's taking far too long. Also, grommets setting is proving highly unpredictable for me, and tiresome. I've made myself a tiny callus on my right thumb. Thank goodness for thimbles.
I have to keep mom updated on the progress, because she bought the materials as a gift for my sister. It's a roundabout gift and repayment in my family; my sister recently gave me money for a theatre performance as payment for the corset. I went to see one of the Cimrman plays with a cousin, who goes to their plays very, very often and this time she suddenly found herself with a spare ticket.

Anyway, I'm in the handsewing finishing stage, and I'd started (re-)reading Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, and was bemoaning the impossibility of sewing and reading at the same time. Because that would be the perfect thing to keep me going.
The obvious answer is, of course, audiobooks. There does not seem to have been a Czech audiobook of Night Watch published yet, but I found an amateur reading on a file-sharing site. The reader's doing voices and everything. It took me a while to get used to the voices and emphases being different than I imagined, but goodness it's good for an amateur job. Death's voice is run through an echo effect and it's perfect. It's so good they should just recruit the reader and make it official.
He's done Guards! Guards! and Wyrd Sisters as well; I think for a while, my reading vs sewing dilemma is solved neatly.

(I wonder how it works when I do have those books, just not in audio form. Okay, and Guards! Guards! is just barely glued back into book form by now.)

* * *

My father came to my room to share the excitement over the Latvian writing he's found on batteries he bought earlier today:
"'Nemest uguni.' Isn't it beautiful?"
I agreed that it was, and he left to look up the case of "uguns" used in a Latvian grammar.

It is beautiful, in an ordinary beautiful language way.

(It means "Do not throw into a fire." The case seems to be mixed up. Father still doesn't realise just how good with language he is.)
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
So I signed up for the Narnia Fic Exchange proper this year, and have received my assignment, and now pondering commences.

Elizabeth Culmer has the problem of obviously her worldbuilding and characters threatening to give her away as the writer. I don't have that problem; I've barely published anything and most of my worldbuilding is happening in the background so far (although I did already have to drop Twinkletop from my remix). My problem is that I almost immediately got a vague idea of a direction to pursue which would have spoiled one of many future plot points for The Peridan Chronicles.

The good news is, trying to come up with a way to write around that seems to have started a flurry of ideas including a hint of a plot (always the greatest problem for me!), so, yay.

Also, some hopefully interesting female characters (as of now, still nameless) have walked in, and some potentially interesting discussions and a theme are forming, so, more yay.

Now I'm becoming worried if I'll have enough time to write the beast this idea is quickly growing into.

-------------------------------------------------------

During my annual attempt to bring some order to my mess of stuff, I found some old, old pictures I made inspired by Narnia. Maybe. Because through them, I remembered one of the sources for my version of Narnia, the cozy country of small Talking Beasts and Birds and the undertaking of practical projects: a series of lavishly illustrated books by Tony Wolf.

We used to borrow them from the library; I only have the third one, which also has the dwarfs/gnomes and introduces giants. I feel like it's the last one that might pass for Narnianish; the next one has fairies and the sort of magic wand magic that I never truly liked in a deep liking way. Even then, while definitely daydreaming about both, I instinctively liked the Deep Magic of worldbuilding more than the willful magic of power, I guess? It was the former that found its way into pictures. And I was more fascinated by the clever things the animals and the gnomes built and made than the things the fairies could conjure.
Seeing as Czech fairies are more like the Narnian Naiads and Dryads than these wee magical beings, I guess it's no wonder I related to the Narnian sort more... and in the Tony Wolf books, to the three mouse sisters. They sewed and wove, and wasn't that just fabulous, making things with their... paws?
Also, there's the weird genderised thing going on between the all-male gnomes and the all-female fairies; I never gave it much thought, but I liked the mixed up animals better than either. The Czech default genders may have had a hand in it again, because I'm finding the venerable Rat was definitely meant to be male, and who knows about the turtle or otter.

Even the first three books don't quite fit in with Narnia: the animals tend to be smaller rather than larger, the dwarfs are different... But in introducing a number of various fairly realistic-looking species beyond what Lewis bothered with, and thinking about a different sort of implications for such a world, I think the books jumpstarted my interest in the lives of the smaller inhabitants of Narnia - and, for that matter, Spare Oom as well. :-)
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Today, in a lesson on war poets (WW1), our teacher said something along the lines of "who knows what we lost in the trenches of WW1, considering what we did get," speaking of some philosophers and writers, pondering how different the world would be if they had died in the war. I immediately thought of Lewis and Tolkien - how diferent the world would be without them! I did not say it aloud, because it would be very much derailing the discussion, but I'm thinking the difference might have, at this point, been even more pronounced than in those cases he named. It would have, most certainly, meant a much more profound difference in my own life.

Just to think of what children's books were like before The Hobbit, and those are people's first introduction to literature. Well, it's not entirely like The Hobbit is the only one (and there's George MacDonald if nothing else), but it's definitely sort of a class for itself. Fantastic literature would, of course, be very different - and considering how many fantasy and sci-fi, or sort of something like that, films we get these days... If all that had emerged from the trenches of WW1 had been modernism, there would certainly be something significant missing from the world as it is today.

I'm definitely biased; someone else might have been hugely impacted by modernism. I wasn't, not that same way. So there's that personal factor. But this is a personal journal; I'm not aspiring to academia here.

So there's no deep thought in this, I'm afraid, but it did make me wonder how much of my imagination as well as my ability to see the beauty of the real world, including the beauty of language, owes to those two. At an early age, just like Lewis points out in a defense of fantasy, their enchanted forests taught me to see some enchatnment in every forest. At an early age, they taught me about the fragile connection between reality and language, without me realising it. Think of all those descriptions Lewis gives, only to end saying it wasn't quite like that, really. "Yrch," said Legolas, falling into his own tongue. It's sort of banal, but it jumped out at me, and remained with me ever since.
("Philosophy was killed by language," the teacher said, in that same abovementioned line of thought, although I sort of missed the connection, because I forgot which philosopher/thinker he was referring to.)
I probably would not be studying English if I had not grown up with their books. I would not have learned to love Englishness without the hobbits and Puddleglum and countless other little instances; and in the very same way, I probably would not have learned to love Czechness so much.

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