From Sea and Sardinia by D H Lawrence | an excerpt

Some days, in an idle moment, I stand at my bookcase and run my eyes over the shelves, and very often I take down this book and open it at random. I have posted excerpts from Sea and Sardinia before, but I find the whole book irresistible so I hope you will excuse another one!

The lovely dawn: lovely pure, wide morning in the mid-sea, so golden-aired and delighted, with the sea like sequins shaking, and the sky far, far, far above, unfathomably clear. How glad to be on a ship! What a golden hour for the heart of man! ah if one could sail for ever, on a small quiet, lonely ship, from land to land and isle to isle, and saunter through the spaces of this lovely world,, always through the spaces of this lovely world. Sweet it would be sometimes to come to the opaque earth, to block oneself against the stiff land, to annul the vibration of one’s flight against the inertia of terra firma! but life itself would be in the flight, the tremble of space. Ah the trembling of never-ended space, as one moves in flight! Space, and the frail vibration of space, the glad lonely wringing of the heart. Not to be clogged to the land any more. Not to be any more like a donkey with a log on its leg, fastened to weary earth that has no answer now. But to be off.

To find three masculine, world-lost souls, and world-lost saunter and saunter on along with them, across the dithering space, as long as life lasts! Why come to anchor? There is nothing to anchor for. Land has no answer to the soul any more. It has gone inert. Give me a little ship, kind gods, and three world-lost comrades. Hear me! And let me wander aimless across this vivid outer world, the world empty of man, where space flies happily.

The lovely, celandine-yellow morning of the open sea, paling towards a rare, sweet blue! The sun stood above the horizon, like the great burning stigma of the sacred flower of day.

Reluctantly I must put the book down now to finish this post. I hope some of you enjoy it as much as myself.


“Almost Whole” from Minus One

The punch is spiked with glory

My senses leaping and alive

For tonight to listen is enough

And through the music of the music

Runs an old familiar voice

A thread of scarlet joy, moving

In my blood, weaving through my

Heart and lungs and lights, pulling

Tighter ever tighter ‘till I scarcely breathe

Caught like a bunch of

Doe-eyed pansies, my eyes are dark

And wild with wonder at such

Intensity of being, that I must weep

For being almost whole.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: the reason why . . .

This is one of my favourite books; I’ve read it twice and am about to begin again. I was looking through the introduction and it was so interesting to read about what started him thinking . . .

” . . . I grew up convinced that science was supremely dull, but suspecting that it needn’t be, and not really thinking about it at all if I could help it. This, too, became my position for a long time.

Then, much later – about four or five years ago, I suppose – I was on a long flight across the Pacific, staring idly out the window at a moonlit ocean, when it occurred to me with a certain uncomfortable forcefulness that I didn’t know the first thing about the only planet I was ever going to live on. I had no idea, for example, why the oceans were salty but the Great Lakes weren’t. Didn’t have the faintest idea. I didn’t know if the oceans were growing more salty with time or less, And whether the oceans salinity level was something I should be concerned about or not. (I am very pleased to tell you that until the late 1970s scientists didn’t know the answers to these questions either. They just didn’t talk about it very audibly.)

And ocean salinity, of course, represented only the merest sliver of my ignorance. I didn’t know what a proton was, or a protein, didn’t know a quark from a quasar, didn’t understand how geologists could look at a layer of rock on a canyon wall and tell you how old it was – didn’t know anything, really. I became gripped by a quiet, unwonted but insistent urge to know a little about these matters and to understand above all how people figured them out. That to me remained the greatest of all amazements – how scientists work things out. How does anybody know how much the Earth weighs or how old its rocks are or what really is way down there in the centre? How can they know how and when the universe started and what it was like when it did? How do they know what goes on inside an atom? And how, come to that – or perhaps above all, on reflection – can scientists so often seem to know nearly everything but then still not be able to predict an earthquake or even tell us whether we should take an umbrella with us to the races next Wednesday?

So I decided that I would devote a portion of my life – three years as it now turns out – to reading books and journals and finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of outstandingly dumb questions. The idea was to see if it isn’t possible to understand and appreciate – marvel at, enjoy even – the wonder and accomplishments of science at a level that isn’t too technical or demanding, but isn’t entirely superficial either.

That was my idea and my hope, and that is what the book that follows is intended to do.”

The scientific mind fascinates me; what could it be like to have a mind like that? I watch every show about the universe that comes on the television, every show about the earth and its inhabitants. You know when the programme shows a blackboard covered with numbers and symbols and it makes perfect sense to the scientist? I smile ruefully. I understand very little but am always drawn to them anyway. I shall begin the book – again – straight away.

A Nod to the Master: from Great Expectations.

“Mr Wopsle’s great-aunt, besides keeping this Educational Institution, kept in the same room – a little general shop. She had no idea what stock she had, or what the price of anything in it was; but there was a little greasy memorandum-book kept in a drawer, which served as a Catalogue of Prices, and by this oracle Biddy arranged all the shop transactions. Biddy was Mr Wopsle’s great-aunt’s granddaughter; I confess myself quite unequal to the working out of the problem, what relation she was to Mr Wopsle. She was an orphan like myself; like me, too, had been brought up by hand. She was most noticeable, I thought, in respect of her extremities; for her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up at heel. This description must be received with a week-day limitation. On Sundays she went to church elaborated.”

Isn’t that mighty? Thank you Mr Dickens!

From Scene 9 in “We All Die in the End” Siblings.

“Butter us a slice of bread there, girl, will you?”

            Sarah wiped a knife on her skirt, then buttered bread for the three of them. The back door opened and immediately two brown hens stepped inside, squawked and stepped out again when Sarah threw a towel at them. Martin darted in, smiling, showing them the eggs cradled in his jersey.

            “Good, good,” Sarah and Barney said together, nodding at their brother.

            They looked at each other as Martin carefully set the eggs in a bowl.

            “For tea,” he said. “Two each.”

            He sat down and ate porridge and bread and butter. Sarah poured strong tea and drank, watching Barney, waiting. Barney finished eating, wiped his mouth and felt in his jacket pocket for the card.

            “Look at this,” he smiled at Martin, waving it at him . “Do you know what this is? No you don’t. Well, it’s a postcard. A postcard, Martin. And do you know what it means?”

            Martin watched the waving card, smiling because Barney was smiling. He shook his head.

            “Well,” Barney began. “Long ago, you don’t remember maybe, there was a little boy used to come here to stay. A little cousin, he was, younger than all of us and we used to play with him and tell him stories.”

            Martin listened to Barney, staring into his face, frowning, concentrating, smiling and frowning.

            “Well,” Barney looked around for his pipe. “Well, he’s going to come and visit us. Won’t that be nice now?”

            Martin’s face began to quiver and squeeze.

            “It’s all right, Marty,” Sarah said. “It’s only Dicky bird – you won’t mind Dicky bird.”

            Martin nodded and smiled but the tears began to roll and his nose began to drip. He sniffed and cried harder and then he got up and went to the couch and hid his face.

            “He’ll cry all day now,” Sarah sighed loudly.

            “Godallmighty,” Barney looked at his watch.

            “I`ll have to get back – I’ll ask for the afternoon off – and – eh, we`ll . . . “

            He waved his hand around at the floor, the dishes in the sink, the shovel filled with ashes on the hearth.

            “We’ll – eh – tidy up a bit – for Dicky bird – and food, Sarah! They`ll want to eat. Can you nip down to Higgins` – get ham and a loaf, and . . . a few apples, that should do.”

            He buttoned up his jacket with an effort and went out.

            Martin was quieter now; his eyes began to close and his thumb went into his mouth. Sarah watched him without speaking. Her hand moved slowly towards her book; quietly she opened it. After a while the book slipped a little and Sarah’s head fell back against the high frame of the chair. A hot, close, muggy silence filled the kitchen and the bluebottle was busy again over the fresh spits of burnt porridge.