Daphne du Maurier and the General

Daphne du Maurier

The tale of how Major Frederick Browning met and courted Daphne du Maurier would seem to belong to one of the novelist’s less likely plots.

The Major had read Du Maurier’s first novel, The Loving Spirit.  Inspired by her description of the coastline of Cornwall, and also dreaming of possibly being able to meet the novelist herself, he visited the county to go sailing.

He did indeed met her; and she liked what she saw.  But as the months passed they both baulked for one reason or another at marrying. In the end it was she who proposed to him. The church they wed in was the very church where an important fictional marriage had taken place as part of the story told in The Loving Spirit.   That fictional marriage in the book had been based on a real one. So a real marriage had inspired the fictional one in the novel, which in turn brought Major Browning to Cornwall, where he met and married the writer .. in that same church. It is like one of the loops of intertwined fates which occur in several of her stories.

The Bridge Too Far

As with all career soldiers, Browning’s army postings took him away from home often.  As WWII advanced, he rose in rank to be a General. He believed in air power and he formed the First Airborne Division. This division served in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. By 1944, he commanded the First Allied Airborne Army at Arnhem. The battle turned into a ghastly British defeat.

Browning’s  decisions during the Battle of Arnhem are still debated among enthusiasts of military history. Some claim much of the defeat was his fault. Yet, it was he who had given the famous warning to General Montgomery, to no avail, that Operation Market Garden was reaching for “a bridge too far”.

The General and his fuzzy travelling companions

The General ended his all hastily scribbled letters home to his wife, son and daughters with “kisses from the Boys”.  The “Boys” were his childhood bears who travelled everywhere with him, packed in a briefcase.

This material is from my reading of Daphne du Maurier, A Daughter’s Memoir by Flavia Leng. I stumbled on this memoir in my local library. Aren’t libraries wonderful!

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian,chocolate-fetcher and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.

Star Child the age of Akra, by Vacen Taylor, a review (@odysseybooks)

Mawson and the bunch and the whole household loved this series.

And here to read afterwards is a review of the books we did ourselves.

And here now is the review by Yesmoreblogs. 

Mai is a remarkable child that has been sent on a quest by her elders to the Valley of a thousand thoughts. To hone her skills as a thought banker. So she can master the thought of others.

Mai is joined by her over protective brother who will be her chaperone and protector throughout her quest. Also with her little stowaway her little lizard Barka (who is an amazing little character to be involved in the book)

Mai is one tough courageous and feisty little lady. She takes control of any situation even though she is the youngest character in the book. Every situation they seem to face themselves in you know that Mai has got in control and will do everything in her power to get through it.

Now enough about Mai even though I could talk about her for ages. We should really talk about the star child…

View original post 228 more words

The Girl Who Reads On the Metro, by Christine Feret-Fleury

‘For some time, she’d had the feeling that life was passing her by, eluding her, thousands of grains of sand running through an almost invisible crack, taking with them thousands of images, smells, colours, scratches and caresses’. Ch.10

This is a book to read about books and about readers falling within the worlds of books.

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is so lightened on every page by prose poetry that I marvelled it did not flutter away from me down the aisles as I read it … on the train.

Each book is a portrait and it has at least two faces.’ Ch 8.

This book I wanted to pass on to another reader as soon as I had recovered a little from the sorrow of finishing it – which meant, of course, I could never again relish it for the first time. But as this copy was a library book, I decided to speak of it instead, this being my own way of acting as Passeur.

So many words. So many stories, characters, landscapes, tears, decisions, hopes and fears. But for whom?Ch.7.

A book to make me forever intrigued by the possibilities of page two hundred and forty seven. Even if the book I happen to choose to read does not even go up to page 247.

A book for people who read books. Here, it’s for you.

Where to find The Girl Who Reads On the Metro (Translated by Ros Schwartz)


From Bookshop Org (supporting local bookshops) from Book Depository(with free shipping worldwide) from Waterstones. And of course from many more.

But really, for hold in your hands this book about the love of books, why not visit your friendly local bookstore to seek it out. And while you look for it – take your time – bathe in the presence of all the other books. (For more about the joys of Book Bathing, take a look at this little post.)

The books above pictured with The Girl Who Reads On The Metro are a portion of my own Yellow Submarine. What Yellow Submarine are you talking about, you ask. The one mentioned in the book!

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Court of the Grandchildren by Greg Finlayson and Michael Muntisov

A thoughtful review of a novel about the biggest challenge of our time.

Cosmic Latte

‘The sweep of time took me away. I saw myself in a distant place. In a cavernous room. My face was wrinkled, my breath rapid, my muscles tense. I sat waiting … waiting for the assembled to come to order … waiting as the vaguely familiar faces prepared to speak … waiting for the judgment from my own grandchildren.’

I was holding my breath till the last second! A truly gripping, enthralling, and powerful novel…

The court of the grandchildren Is set in the futuristic world of 2059, one in which chaos and damage caused by climate change are rampant. But while the story might concern the future It is actually a poignant critique of the present. The story begins when Lily gets a call from her great uncle David, whom she has never met before. Interestingly both our main characters are brought together by David’s wish…

View original post 579 more words

Stories to Read by Candlelight, by Jean Lorrain, translated from French by Patricia Worth

She was a marvellous story teller because she fascinated her listeners; she believed in what she was telling and that is the secret.’‘ ( Page 9.)

These eight stories by Jean Lorrain were published in France 150 years ago. He loosely based them on tales he had heard forty years before that. Now they’re brought into the candle-light again by translator Patricia Worth, and Odyssey Books.

Just think, from out of the nineteenth century France it is now available to you anywhere in the world with the click of a button. Isn’t the modern world wonderful! And why would you click this button? Because doubtless you love stories; and this little book contains superbly told stories by a skilled storyteller.

Even the introduction has the feel of a ‘once-upon-a- time’ fairy tale about it.

One fine morning the lover grew tired of waiting, and Norine grew old alone in her little cottage with the memory of her old parents who had died .. and regret for the lover who had left. ‘ ( Page 3.)

With her candle at the ready and night cap on her head, Little Jewell gets ready to read fine stories.

Stories to Read by Candlelight with illustrations by Erin-Claire Barrow is published by Ensorcella, an imprint of Odyssey Books. It is available from Bookshop Org (supporting local bookshops), from Waterstones, and through Book Depository with free delivery). Of course you can get it on digital versions: Amazon on Kindle and Barnes and Noble on Nook. But I recommend the little soft cover version. It’s the size of your phone – or of your smallest bear- and perfect for carrying about in your pockets – along with a handy candle .

Mark, your host here at Baffled Bear Books, is also guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In and She Ran Away From Love. 

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

‘What’ is two plus two?’ With this thorny question, which our hero cannot answer, begins the epic space quest that will end all quests – especially if our hero (who doesn’t know who he is) gets it wrong.

I got so caught up in this book that I missed my train stop twice. For me, this was a strange achievement for a novel more packed with science than a textbook. But what exciting science it is. Both the story and the science move faster than a detective thriller. Our hero must detect through rapid experiments and improvisations, not made any easier by being in the wrong gravity, how to survive. Next, there is the question of fulfilling his mission, if only he could remember what it was.

I don’t want to add more to my above comments and to what the blurb (above) says for fear of accidentally spoiling the story. But I will note that one fascinating thing about it is the reverse-take on climate change. In this story, the earth is going to cool down fast, too fast. I am going to quote a bit. I’m sure the author won’t mind -perhaps its even part of the reason he wrote the novel, for all I know. That and a love of science.

‘Nineteen years. That’s my estimate for when half the people now alive will be dead. .. The math of famine is easy. Take all the calories the world creates with farming and agriculture per day and divide by about 1500. The human population cannot be greater than the number .. The major crops are sensitive to temperature changes. Dr Leclerc, Ch. 14.

Dr Leclerc goes on in grim detail about how the messed up climate will mess up food production. The mission boss, Ms Statt, adds how once agriculture is disrupted, hungry populations go to war against one another for the remainder, causing further disruption to food production and thus intensifying the famines. So there it is: whether our climate cools down too fast, as in this fictional scenario, or warms up two or three degrees, as in our actual terrifying reality, bad things happen.

This is not just Science Fiction; it is SCIENCE fiction. By the way, it turns out that high school science teachers rock. Just as well. It’s looking like only young scientists can save us.

I will leave you will a list of Very Important Scientific Equipment: String. Tape measure. Stop watch. Pen. Something to write on (or use your arm or a wall. Optional extras include sticky tape and popsicle sticks. Never get stuck in space without these essential items! Do you want to know why? Well, now you have to read the book, don’t you!

You might also enjoy my revisit, after 50 years! to The Foundation Series by Issac Asimov.

Where to find the Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – who also wrote The Martian– which got turned into a movie with Matt Damon. Find it at BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops) or at Waterstones. Or visit the sci-fi section of your revered local bookshop. There is talk of turning Project Hail Mary into a movie too. But there is no way it could be as much fun as this book. Read it before the movie spoils it for you.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Asimov’s Foundation: revisited

Long ago, in the dawn of galactic history, way back in the 1970s, on the crust of a planet orbiting an insignificant star on the fringe of the star charts, a small bipedal creature hunched over well thumbed copies of secret lore printed on cheap paper and marvelled at the immensity of space and time.

From one end of the galaxy to another there was a crumbling Empire; and only Hari Seldon’s successors could save its billions of people from 30,000 years of barbarism. Maybe other kids like me felt like misfits as we fumbled at games and got relegated out of teams to merely keep scores on sports days. But we were involved in the sweep of galactic history. We also knew the Laws of Robotics by heart. We read Asimov.

I spent the earnings of my paper rounds (remember those?) on Asimov’s books. When I had enough cash (remember cash?) I made my pilgrimage to the sacred local bookshop. I’d approach the cash register already reading the first page and cycle home to read late into the night, straining my eyes at the tiny print and firing up ganglion after ganglion in my brain. Weeks would have to then pass before I could afford the next title, so what did I do? I read the titles I already had over and over again.

Asimov’s Foundation series appealed to me because they they were NOT space operas in which brawny jocks blew up green aliens and rescued females clad in scraps of cloth and leather. There are certainly wars in the story but they take place on the fringes. All the action is comprised of talk: talk and thought; people using their brains to solve vast problems of strategy, politics and the sweep of history. (‘I am .. not a clef-chinned, barrel-chested hero of a subetheric trimension thriller’. General Bel Rios to Brodig. Foundation and Empire.). To a teenager who was regularly pummelled by cricket balls because he never worked out how to catch them, this was great reading.

Eons passed. Propelled by my interest in Table Top Wargames, I read much history, and realised that Asimov’s ‘pyscho-history’ was well based on the events on good old brutal Earth. The decay of his Galactic Empire is loosely modelled on the fall of Rome. General Bel Riose, who retakes parts of the old Empire but falls foul of a suspicious Emperor is obviously inspired by Flavius Belisarius who angered Emperor Justinian of Byztantium by being too successful. The “Traders” and their Association recalled to my mind the early aggressive European traders such as the Portuguese and, later, the powerful East India Company. There are many points of inspiration that I eventually spotted -and I imagine fellow Asimovians did too.

More eons passed – let’s call them ‘human decades’. There I was the other day browsing in the sacred local library, repository of the wisdom of the ages (and an astonishing number of Harry Potter books) when Lo! I chanced upon all three Foundation titles.

“Read us, Mark”, they called in that quieter-than-thought but unmissable voice that books transmit when they spot their likely readers (You all read a lot; you know the voice I mean.) “You’ve only read us a dozen times before. Take us home. You don’t even need to do a paper run in the rain any more. Borrow us. We’re free from your local library.” Readers, your Correspondent borrowed them.

What an intriguing return journey this is. It’s like returning to the town where you grew up but being now able to see it differently. Look, there on the second page are the ‘calculator pads’ that Asimov imagined in the 1940’s*. I thought it would be wonderful to have something like that – and now I do. I call it a ‘smart phone’. And there is the reference to the planetary power source that I did not understand at all in the 1970s but now know to mean thermal power. And look, there is the basis of all sci-fi travel, beloved by novelists and movie makers, without which their stories would be impossible even as improbable fiction – the notion of ‘Hyper Jumps’.

With the magic of hindsight, I can see too how Asimov was still stuck in the 1940s and 1950s despite the far reach of his imagination. For one thing, the characters read newspapers. Another oddity, is that although Asimov crafted his Robot novels on the idea of a ‘positronic brain’, there is little computerisation in the Foundation series – although, to be fair, he was imagining a decaying civilisation in which nothing new got invented. And there is the omission worthy of note even to a teenage boy in the 1970s: there are few women; and such who do appear, like Batya in Foundation and Empire, are introduced with cringeworthy emphasis on their looks. Tobacco smoking remains prominent and the men light up cigars at any excuse. Smoking inside space ships! The thought chokes me up.

*These stories by Isaac Asimov were first published in magazine form by Street & Street Publications and the first paperback editions in 1952 by Gnome Press. The 2016 edition by HarperVoyager is the one which I photographed above (with my calculator-pad-smart-phone.)

Where to find the Foundation series: At BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops). Or visit the sci fi section of your revered local bookshop, repository of the wisdom of the ages and of books that will call to you from the shelves, “Take us home, take us home.”

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Mountaineering Bears Traverse Suilven

Mountaineering at its grandest. See Scotland. Be amazed by these intrepid bears. Grab your ropes, read on, and conquer the peaks!

These adventures are brought to you by Munroe, a bear with no fear of heights. (Mawson has climbed as many as four cushions but isn’t quite as skilled a climber as Munroe). Be sure to visit Munroe’s Web Den for all his climbs.

Munro The Mountaineering Bear

This summer four experienced members of the Mountaineering Bears and three instructors from Bear Lodge School of Bear Mountaineering set out for an adventure in the mountains of Assynt in North West Scotland. They planned to climb the two summits of Suilven Caisteal Liath and Meall Meadhonach .

The Route

The Team

Left to Right. Corbett, Emma, Archie, Miss Twiggy, Endon, LBB, Munro

As they prepare for their adventure the team were looking forward to exploring nature and some fine mountain views. They were also excited about making new pals as they worked together to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.

Big Ted the Principal of Bear Lodge has some advice for the furry adventurers ‘Have an exciting time, but don’t take unnecessary risks and don’t let the team get separated’

The bears started their adventure from Inverkirkaig and on route make a small diversion to visit the falls…

View original post 896 more words

 Landing On All Four Paws: The diary of a kitten called Ollie, by Ollie Cat

Cats rejoice! Ollie is here. By perusing his diary, the discerning cat (and aren’t all cats ‘discerning’) can be taken through important questions such as how to successfully enter a new household, how relate to the other established felines, and how to manage the Two-legged-furless-food-bowl-filler-person.

‘There’s a lot of work involved in being a kitten. It’s not all lying around looking cute and adorable, you know, although that is part of my job description.’ Ollie speaking (on the day of The Great Toilet Paper Debacle.)

The Lazy Paws Guest House for Discerning Felines

The Pet Shop Man phoned The Cat Lady of Brook Street about a kitten who had lost his home. She called him Ollie, ‘and he didn’t stop crying.’ Meeting a line up of six huge cats, Garfield, Sam, Billy. Timmy, Ricky and Charlie, when he arrived only frightened him more.

Great Garfield, the Obi Wan Kenobi of Felines

But Garfield takes kindly to the kitten and helps him to understand important things. ‘Cats live alongside, humans and … we help them, guide them, show them the way.’ Mentored by wise Garfield, Ollie learns the ways of the Guest House and how to enjoy his life. Napping, eating, exploring, watching the birds, and dancing with butterflies are important parts of his curriculum.

Some Things To Not Do, Apparently

Trying to dig a way out of a laundry by making an artistic hole in a new mat. Peeing on a cushion. Leaping out from behind doors on unsuspecting fellow cats. Peeing on the cushion again. Jumping on other cat’s tails. Chewing the knitting wool. Helping to sweep by standing on the broom. Bounding on to Mum’s bed at 4.30 am.

The Great Cat In The Sky

As he gets a bit bigger, Ollie also learns how to swing from the curtains, do daring roof climbs, and to make neighbourhood friends. From Garfield he learns the stories of cats who have lived before in the house, and how to Say Goodbyes.

‘The Great Cat gives us a certain amount of time with the two-legged furless ones … and its up to us .. to teach humans about life and how to get the best out of it.’ Garfield to the house hold cats.

‘I, Ollie, ,the award-winning Diary writer Extraordinaire, have danced with Butterflies’. Ollie, in May

 Landing On All Four Paws: The diary of a kitten called Ollie, by Ollie Cat, is now available on Amazon. (FREE too, if you use Kindle Unlimited.) The author dedicates it to “all the cats I’ve known and loved, and those I’ve yet to meet.” Take a look. You will purr, you will growl, y ou will discover cat Tai chi, you will curl up for a nap, and you will get a bit teary. And look out for his further adventures – coming soon.

Don’t miss Ollies further adventures.

The author: Pauline Dewbery helped Ollie to record his adventures. She trained to be an editor and had many articles published in teen girl’s magazines. Pauline is a pet bereavement counsellor. The Daily Mews is Pauline Dewberry’s popular website for cat lovers. With cat humour and jokes, caption contests, guest articles about cat care and cat antics, it is your ‘purrfect way to start the day.’ It provides, among other things, a space to respectfully reflect on feelings of grief for our passed pets, for instance, in the tributes called “Napping on A Sunbeam”.

Cover of For Such A Time As This, by Pauline Dewberry

Pauline also wrote For Such A Time As This: My journey through cancer. How love and my cats sustained, fortified me, and helped take the pain away. This is listed at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and on Amazon Australia. and more. It’s about $3 on Kindle and in some regions its FREE to read with Kindle unlimited.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic, bibliophile and Guardian of Mawson Bear, a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Subliminal Dust, by Pooja Mittal: Poetry from Odyssey Books

Silence is never silent so long as there is a listening ear. (Back cover of book.)

After four readings of Subliminal Dust I am still finding lines to enjoy differently. The poems bring out voices in movements, whispers amid chaos, sounds trapped in small rocks, the stretching voids of unspoken emotions, terribly pale silences.

There is music in this triangle, as in a shell ..

subliminaldust 2865

Iain Sharp of The Sunday Star said of Pooja Mittal, ‘Exceptional … A voice rather like that of a Zen master – insightful and enigmatic in about equal measure‘.  Zen often springs to mind on reading her poems, in particular the notion of koans.

Kōan, in Zen Buddhism of Japan, is described as a succinct paradoxical statement or question. The effort to “solve” a koan is intended to exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will, readying the mind to entertain an appropriate response on the intuitive level.

I don’t suggest that Mittal intended her work in quite that way but certainly her images and unexpected juxtapostions had that effect for me. They set you loose from the usual tightness of linguistic meanings and adrift into the spaces and arenas of one’s own mind.

Gentle universes that float past 
like tall, starry ships .

A favourite poem for me is ‘Seducing A Poem’ (p. 26), which so well conveys the frustrations of writers and the patience needed to bring to the fore that elusive something that you know you must write down, somehow.

.. come here poppet on little black shoes ..

Pooja Mittal has been widely published  since the age of 13. At 17 she was the youngest Featured Poety ever in Poetry New Zealand. In 2007 she was featured in The Best Australian Poetry 2007. Her work has been performed in Moscow in Russian translation.

Subliminal Dust was published in 2010 by Odyssey Books . This publisher also brings out more fine poetry by artists around the world. For instance, consider looking at How To Wake A Butterfly by Loic Ekinga and at When No One is Watching by Linathi Makanda, poets based in South Africa.

Where to read and buy Subliminal Dust:
See the links here to publisher Odyssey  Books, to Amazon (where it is FREE on Kindle Unlimited, to Bookshop Org, to BookDepository (free shipping) and Waterstones UK.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. He is the writer-bear of She Ran Away From Love and  It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In