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All Posts By Catherine Oughtibridge

Books by Barbara Kingsolver

Prodigal Summer

Read during my own prodigal summer.

I loved the way that science as entwined within the stories of this book. I loved that the characters were strong women. I loved the descriptions of the forest and farming, which unlike some books didn’t seem to come in clumps, but were part of the story itself. I loved the grumpy old man and the mad old lady. I hated the frayed, unresolved ending.

I discovered this book in a youth hostel in Madrid and read it on the plane journey home.

The Lacuna

After enjoying Prodigal Summer, I picked up The Lacuna from a charity shop.

 

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That Man

On our journey thus far we have encountered a number of men (and a woman) that we have labelled as ‘That Man’. ‘That Man’ is a term of endearment that we have coined, describing an individual that has helped us, two rather ditsy British girls, in our hours of need so far on our trip.

They are:

  1. The woman at the first petrol station we used in France (the first ever in the continent). We shared no common language. The petrol went in the tank, but our credit card was refused on the first go. We were rather hysterical, after a rather challenging few hours of learning to drive on the wrong side of the road. Despite her lack of English, and our lack of French, she smiled at us, and beckoned to us to try again. It worked! She grinned at us, wiped her head in mock relief and sent us on our way, with a full tank of fuel.
  2. The Italian men who gave us directions to a hotel in Turin. After getting lost in the one way systems of Turin, and had been driving around for five hours, we were exhausted and desperate. After Betty, also verging on hysterics, virtually begged them for directions, the kind gentleman told me to her to ‘calm down’ (In English!) and gave us directions to our hotel.
  3. The man at the hotel in Turin. We were absolutely exhausted when we stumbled into the hotel. It was late. He gave us a nice room, and hot water for drinks. TWICE. What a legend.
  4. The paramedic men in Rome, who kindly took our picture in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
  5. The police man in Rome who explained to us how to get home after the trains stopped running for the night.
  6. The local ‘Italian Stallion’ for driving us around the bella Italian countryside in his open top car and bringing us fruit and yoghurts!

P.s. [From Kate because Betty missed out]

The volleyball team playing on the beach at Terracina. All of them.

 

[written by both of us collaboratively, like our shared wardrobe]

 

 

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Red polka-dot knickers

Imagine you are my mother. You go to America for a week to be educated. You arrive home, exhausted but happy. Its been a long flight and you’re not used to being away from your family. You walk through the front door, through the hallway and into the kitchen. You walk across to the sink. You’re thirsty. Yet something is different.  The walls have changed colour. You turn around.

Your daughter stands, giggling with a video camera in her hand.

You see the kitchen wall.

Polka dot knickers mural

Never bland.

 

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Changing Clocks

Outside, in the half-dark that is early morning, I de-iced the car to take the Mother to work.* She helped, finding the de-icer and doing most of the work. I started the engine.

As I pulled out onto the main road, the Mother looked angrily at the dashboard.

“The clock hasn’t gone forward.” The tone of her voice made it clear she was accusing my car of somehow being faulty.

“He’s an old car.” I said, “Bertie doesn’t know he’s got the wrong time.”

She appeared distressed by this idea. Clearly her daughter was driving an inefficient car. She explained that her iPad doesn’t have to be told that the time needs changing. I explained that Bertie was more like the oven than an iPad, and just like the Father had to change the clock on the oven, I would have to change the clock on the dashboard.

“Or you could do it?”

“How?” Car maintenance and clock changing are not normally areas the Mother takes responsibility for.

“If you press the  ‘H’ button…” unfortunately, the Mother’s sight isn’t everything it used to be, “…the top button.”

And, with a single click of the ‘H’ button the time was corrected. Bertie has a simple clock. The numbers loop in one direction. There’s a button for hours and a button for minutes and you press them until the clock reads the right number.

It’s amazing how much of an impact technology is having on what is considered normal. The Mother needing to be told how to change a clock reminds me of the Grandmother not recognising the save button icon as a floppy-disc (she calls it the TV button). And whilst these little hiccups are sweet and make me smile, the frustration was palpable.

*Somehow I then managed to become sun-burnt by lunchtime.

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