Category Archives: VA

The American Way (again) -

coffee failWhen I first started coming over to the US, as an itinerant folksinger, I was weaned off tea and onto coffee as the standard/regular ‘cuppa’, but was happy to leave the brewing of this brew to friends and hosts. Later, and especially after moving over permanently, I found myself being required to make it myself from time to time.

The complexities of a filter machine evaded my sense of logic so completely – and often – that I joke that ‘I had found more ways to fail to make coffee’ than anyone in recorded history.

Too much coffee; not enough coffee; too much water; not enough water; water not going through the coffee; machine not switched on; etc., etc. Once I left the spout off the machine and didn’t notice, which resulted in a fairly spectacular “caffeine hosedown,” as Wendy dubbed it.

As the years went by and we settled into running a bookstore, we developed a routine: Wendy got up in the morning and fed the cats – and there can be quite a lot of them sometimes, given all our fosters – while I set up the coffee the night before, so that all she had to do to achieve caffeination amidst all those felines was push the button.

A couple of days ago, having congratulated myself on long ago mastering the art of making coffee successfully, I really scored a ‘bulls-eye’ for the other team.

I got up before Wendy, hit the switch, and went out for a smoke while the coffee percolated. I came back in to find coffee was flooding the counter top and down over the kitchen floor. When I organized things the night before, I’d done everything except put the jug back in its allotted place under the filter. Ours is not a pot that stops when the carafe is out.

Of course I find that most folk around here have no idea how to make a pot of tea, so I suppose we can call it (in soccer parlance) ‘a score draw’. Now look at that, I scored a World Cup reference, and I haven’t watched a single game.

 

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The Monday Book: WAITING by Ha Jin

I read this on holiday at a friend’s house, so of course I had to read quickly in order to leave it there. What struck me about the book was how it made you feel you could see inside a China that is usually invisible to guests and visitors, the one that runs on paperwork and bribes. And yet, at the same time, it made you feel like issues surrounding love and human hearts are the same the world over: when you’ve got what you want, you want something else.

WAITING is about a man in an arranged marriage to a woman from his former village. He now works as a doctor in the city, and wants to divorce her and marry a nurse from his hospital. It has elements of rural/urban divisions as well as cultural divides within China.

Some people might find this a depressing read, but I found the buoyant bits between the “well, that didn’t work” parts satisfying. Also, the prose is… stiff, but in a positive way. You don’t notice how Ha Jin writes so much as the story he is telling; the words don’t get in the way. I actually thought it had been translated at first; it had that feel, but he writes and teaches in English – in Georgia.

If Iago is your favorite Shakespearean villain, if you’re interested in other cultures, if you like to read about women’s lives in China, if you plain like good storytelling, this is a good book for you. If you like a lot of zip and action and stiff prose bothers you, you won’t like it.

I loved it, enough to stay up late and finish it the night before we flew out of our friend Jane’s place.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table