Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Books and names

These are the books I got for Christmas; all delicious; all just what I wanted.

How many of them have I yet read? Can you see the markers in the Mitford letters and in "Poem for the Day Two"? That's how far I've got. I've only dipped into the others.

Why can't I be a lady who gets to sit at home all day, sipping coffee from a porcelain cup and nibbling grapes?

Apart from working all day and also Tuesday evenings, I spend too much time marking and preparing work. I also have to study books to teach them. And then I have to read our book group's chosen books. And of course a bit of evening blogging goes on too, I have to admit. And three evenings a week I go up about 10 to my mother's to spend the night with her. I keep other books there.

Still, the Mitford letters (between six aristocratic sisters) are entertaining. I bet they didn't work so hard as we all do.

They all had fairly unusual lives, but one of the more conventional married the man who became Duke of Devonshire. Very wise; might have thought of this myself. Actually, my plan as a child was to marry Prince Charles.

Anyway, in one letter she tells of a friend of her son's. The friend was called Lord Ancrum and when he arrived at some social event the announcing chap asked him his name. The chap misheard him and announced him as Norman Crumb. From then on, his friends naturally called him this, even sending him letters addressed to Norman Crumb, Esq. Shortly after this, Lyndon B Johnston became President of America so the young man became Norman B Crumb, or indeed Bread Crumb. I presume that this chap is the well-known Conservative politician now known mainly as Michael Ancrum.

I was relating this tale to Daughter 2, who mused that the upper classes, some of whom she has met at university, often have silly nicknames. She recalled that the mother of one posh friend is called Twinks and actually introduces herself as such: "Hellew, I'm Twinks X."

Of course we do call Daughter 2 "Boots" most of the time. But we don't actually tell strangers this. Except all of you, of course.


  1. I too have legions of books waiting in seductive piles to be read. It's nice to know they are there, but infuriating that life gets in the way of the important business of reading. I second the suggestion that the "upper classes" are into nicknames. A public school friend of ours was nicknamed "Reg" at school which is not odd in itself. What is odd is that he was nicknamed that because his elder brother bore that nickname when he was at the school. And in turn, he had acquired the name because their father had been at the school 40 odd years previously and HE had been nicknamed Reg. So you see, even daft nicknames can become hereditary!!

  2. You can share your "Boots" secret with all of us, um, 'cause we're not strangers LOL! Sigh. I share your pain. Why CAN'T we be the ones to sit at home and eat bonbons and do our heart's desire all day. Bigger Sigh. I have a big pile of books with the markers in the middle. Books that didn't get finished before the next one came along. Drives me nuts. I have my book group in eight days and I haven't opened the book yet. Harumph!

  3. The nickname thing does seem to run in posh families in the UK, I only met people who reliably went by nicknames at the Edinburgh Academy. It's also a feature of some families in the US, not necessarily posh ones though: my in-laws are fairly nicknamey, there's Aunt Pink (Mary) and my father-in-law (Dennis) is known as Buzz. Dunno why.

  4. I;m another one with piles of books - just waiting! I have several on the go at once.

    Seriously wouldn't you be bored sitting around home all day?

  5. Isn't it a good thing your plan went awry, Princess Isabelle?

  6. I also have a pile of books waiting. In fact it is growing rapidly. The leaning tower may yet have a rival. Roll on halfterm.

    And there are a few in your pile that I really want to read as well!

  7. I have so many books in my TBR pile, it is in danger of become a column rather than a pile.

    I've been wanting to add that Mitford sisters one too. It sounds fabulous.

  8. I'm so jealous! Can you share each title with us so we can look them up? Enjoy 'em!

  9. Bet you're glad you didn't marry Prince Charles! Have you read Jessica Mitford's 'Hons and Rebels'? I have a queue of books waiting beside the computer to make me feel guilty...
    In answer to your comment over at mine,I laid on the 'retired schoolteacher' bit for dramatic effect. I am 46 and only retired by virtue of the fact I'm not doing it any more! I was trained and worked for a while as a primary teacher. I suppose I am sort of living in retirement, though I teach English language part-time. I don't spend too much time sitting around eating bonbons but I still don't seem to get around as many blogs or use my time as constructively as you. I'm very gratified to know I sound young!
    Hope the cold's getting better.

  10. I am reading 6 books currently. Always seem to manage to get them finished eventually.

    You are lucky with your escape from Prince Charles. Mr Life sounds a far nicer person.

    I cannot get over the fact that there is someone in England's uppers, called 'Tiggy'. Who would name their daughter after a hedgehog??

  11. I had to laugh at the statement you made about staying home all day! I do and trust me, I don't get a lot of reading done! For when you stay at home, everyone thinks you have absolutely nothing to do, so you end up doing absolutely everything except what you desire! Not exactly true, but close. And I don't mind a bit, because much of it is caring for my mother who is my best friend. I always have several books started, so much so, that I mix the characters up! Nice to visit your site!

  12. And again, here's another one who always has books on the go. However, I read one at a time and get totally engrossed in them. I had just starte "Of Human Bondage" when Christmas arrived with two more books as gifts. Finally finished OHB and am now into "Atonement" but will finish it before going on to "Love in the Time of Cholera," "Into the Wild," and Sidney Poitier's autobiography "Measure of a Man." I guess you could say I stay at home, but like Nancy there still never seems to be enough hours in the day. I taught for many years and was so exhausted I just had to retire...the stress was not worth the bit of extra I'd get in pension so it was a pretty easy decision.

  13. I was interested to read about the upper class and their nicknames. In some of the novels of British writers (P.G. Wodehouse? Evelyn Waugh?) people are always drifting around with improbable names like "Bunny" or "Bubbles". I'd wondered if it had some basis in fact.

    I think there's a similar and equally vacuous custom in the United States. Or perhaps it's simply that the upper class in the U.S. is vacuous. I can't be certain.

  14. This post made me want to run off and photograph MY pile of books like a big fat copycat. This is mainly because I too have the Kate Atkinson i my pile, but I have to say, I didn't like it. I do like her usually, just this one was disappoiting, I thought.
    I see you have a folllow up with more books, which is good. i was feeling guilty because my pile of read books is quite large because of the ridiculously enormous academic break in summer. I am on casual contract and am therefore impoverished, not to mention brain-dead.
    In this family, we all have nicknames, doesn't everybody? ours ae very embarrassing.

  15. It's such fun to read your 'chatter' Isabelle :)
    I was introduced to a lady named 'Tink' at a wedding once and she thought she was rather aristocratic :) She told me about letting her 5 yr old grandson 'drive' her new SUV...somewhere off the road on their country property of course. Silly is a good description of that kind of mindset.
    My husband occasionally calls our youngest 'Lizard'. Her middle name is Elizabeth :)

  16. Dearest Hen,
    The 'Tiggy', 'Dink', 'Kick', 'Bubbles' 'Muffy', 'Plum' thing is what one may do when one absolutely does not have to give a hoot what others may think.

    This hoot is not given, generally, from a house with sufficient rooms to become an hotel.

    and Fairlie ?(above) - the Mitford book is not added to the pile ... it IS THE PILE

    all love Honks