I don’t know what you’ve been getting up to these days, my friends, but there’s been lots of lolling going on in my neck of the woods. Lots. It’s that part of the summer when we mostly stay at home. And things get very low key.

the orange lilies and the view upriver.
The view upriver, and our lilies.

For a few weeks in the summer, I like to just be at home. To enjoy a lazy start to the day. An early morning cup of tea, or two, on the deck. Watching the ducks. Listening. Breathing. Hubby is usually up before me, and if he’s not gone golfing, he’ll be out in the garden already. I always give him a shout when I get up, and he comes back in so we can have our tea together.

I love this part of our morning. We talk about our plans for the rest of the day, if I’m walking with my friends, or blogging, or whatever. If he’s off to get the truck serviced, or planning to work in the garden most of the morning, or go for a bike ride. Some days we ride our bikes together. We discuss plans for dinner. It’s funny, but we almost always know what we’re having for dinner before we’ve even had breakfast. Some days we talk about what we’re each reading. Occasionally we talk politics. But mostly we don’t want the world to encroach too much this early.

Summer lolling. It’s our version of hygge, except in July, instead of November.

The hydrangea bed overlooking the Rideau River.
Our hydrangea bed is burgeoning. The flowers are almost as tall as me.

And when I’m lolling I quite often have a book in hand. I just finished reading Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky. I’ve mentioned before that I was reading it, taking it slow, so as to eke out the pleasure. She’s such a wonderful writer. Literary, without being pretentious. Perceptive in her observations of people, and life, without being judgy. Most of her observations are through the eyes of her characters. In this case a much older Jackson Brodie who seems to be in a very contemplative mood in this book, looking back on his past as he contemplates the future in the form of his teenage son.

Even the more hapless characters in the book are taking a long look at life and what it means. Like poor Vince who has lost everything (job, home, marriage) and is now suspected of murdering his wife. Or Andy who is a bad actor in so many ways, but who stuffs his ill-gotten gains in the attic to avoid being yelled at by his very competent wife. I love that Andy “launders” his cash by buying absurdly expensive watches and bags for his wife and telling her they are fakes. Bunny the wise and kind, but potty-mouthed, cross-dressing performer. And Crystal, once a child runaway pressed into prostitution, who escaped, reinvented herself, and is now married to a very rich villain.

I also love that Atkinson has brought back Reggie in this book. All grown up and a cop now. She and Jackson’s paths cross and recross, and one wonders at the end of the book what’s next for each of them. I said this before on my last book post, but it bears repeating: if you are new to this series, and decide to read this book, please go back and read some of the earlier Jackson Brodie books. Especially When Will There Be Good News? It will make the experience of reading Big Sky so much richer.

Atkinson’s version of a mystery novel is filled with crossing paths, and seeming coincidences that are of course not coincidences at all. You will love how she weaves everything together. Weaving plots being one of her strong points, in my opinion. The other is depicting a world that is violent, and sometimes cruel, but not without humanity, and humour. One in which the bad guys usually get their just desserts. Isn’t that why we read mystery or crime novels, especially in these turbulent times? To see the world fractured a bit and then neatly put back together. I’m pretty sure that’s why I read them. I like things to be neatly put together.

Hubby's bean patch
One of Hubby’s extensive bean patches.

I’ve also been doing a lot of listening lately, on my solitary walks, or when I’m sitting on the deck with a cup of tea. I’ve worked my way through a ton of the Shedunnit podcasts. And thanks to the kindly recommendation of Nancy, my teacher-librarian friend, I’ve discovered the Slightly Foxed podcast. Oh Nancy, you know me too well. I adore this series. The Podcast takes listeners behind the scenes of Slightly Foxed a quarterly literary magazine from the UK. This literary magazine isn’t a high-brow, scholarly publication. It’s just good writing about good books, written by people who love them. And it seeks to revive interest in “books that are no longer new and fashionable, but have lasting appeal.”

Slightly Foxed is a very civilized way to appreciate books and writers. No shouting, no hype, just beautifully presented enthusiasms, most of which are irresistible.’

Michael Palin

If you try the podcast please listen to the first episode first. Called “Kindred Spirits,” it looks at how the podcast (and how Slightly Foxed itself) began. I love that it started around a co-founder’s kitchen table with, as she puts it, “a bottle of wine on the table and dogs under the table.” They even introduce the dogs of all the participants. That made me laugh. You can hear a dog barking every once in a while during the podcast; I know that will appeal to some of you. Ha.

In one Slightly Foxed episode on travel writing, called “Leaving a Place Called Home”, I was delighted to find that they discussed the Patrick Leigh Fermor book, A Time of Gifts, which I bought in London in 2017, and am finally reading. Now how’s that for a coincidence? I started reading A Time of Gifts when we were camping in June. It is exquisitely written, but very, very slow moving. I almost gave up after an hour of reading, then persisted, then I was hooked. Fermor’s detailed descriptions drop you right into his world, you follow his journey almost in real time. It’s not a quick read; it’s a book to be savoured. Slowly.

You can find the Slightly Foxed podcast here. I highly recommend it. It’s made me chuckle, and smile, and feel that, in fact, the world is still a kind and civilized place. A perfect antidote to all the turmoil and political wrangling that is so unavoidable these days. And especially perfect when one is enjoying a slow summer.

Summer Lolling on our deck overlooking the Rideau River.
This chair is for me to curl up in.

It’s odd this tendency I have to go to ground for a while each summer. I’m not sure why I do. I’m happy to walk with friends, but just as happy to walk the trail on my own, listening to my book, following my own schedule. I won’t make more than two commitments each week. I hate to rush around from one engagement to another, filling my calendar up so that I don’t have time for being at home. Reading, walking, blogging… breathing… lolling.

Just as my mother always predicted, I excel at lolling.

What are you up to this summer, my friends? Are you lolling? Are you like me… tuning out CNN and trying to stay positive in this weirdly surreal summer we’re having? Or are you up to more energetic activities? Do tell.

P.S. Here are the links to all my recommendations. Some of these are affiliate links from which I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky and When Will There Be Good News? The Slightly Foxed literary quarterly, and the Slightly Foxed podcast. And Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts.


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From the archives


On Family and Stories

I seem to have inherited my grandmother's love of family stories. And I love to tell them to anyone who will listen. Or read.

Our Isolation Diary

What's your "Isolation Diary" look like? Have you fallen into a rhythm. We have. And it's a rhythm that I find very comforting.

Waxing and Waning: A Crisis of Confidence

Sometimes my confidence wanes. Like when a top which emphasizes all my worst attributes and triggers a crisis of confidence.

46 thoughts on “Summer Lolling”

  1. Ann in Missouri

    Yo, Susan … I’m chiming in for the first time in a while because (as you asked) I’ve been mowing and weeding my patootie off down here in Missouri. You’ve heard, I’m sure, how wet and rainy it’s been in the Lower Mississippi Valley this spring and summer. Every time it’s rained somewhere near here it’s rained on my little 25 acres. And jeez! The grass! The weeds! Ergo, there’s not nearly as much lolling going on here as I deserve.

    But you’ll love this, even though it isn’t lolling: Tomorrow I hop in the car and drive up to Iowa City to attend a week-long University of Iowa Summer Writer’s Workshop. Neat, huh? The workshop I’m attending is titled “The Frangible Memoir.” Here’s a link to the description (if I can make it publish here): https://iowasummerwritingfestival.org/frangible-memoir-0

    Then I return home for a few weeks for more mowing and weeding, then I’m off to the North Carolina beaches and New Hampshire mountains. Then home again for Labor Day and what I hope will, finally, be a seriously lolling season.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your beautiful summer up there. Keep at it. You’re doing it right. 🙂

    1. Twenty-five acres is a lot to look after, Ann. I can imagine there’s little time for lolling. That writer’s workshop sounds like it will be fantastic. As does your beach and mountain time. Enjoy everything!

    2. OMG, so jealous. I have attend the Festival several times and LOVED it every time. Have a wonderful time!

  2. You’ve really whet my appetite for Big Sky . Can’t wait to get my hands on it now . I shall check out the podcasts – if they’re good enough for Michael Palin they’re good enough for me (love him). I wonder if your ‘ summer break ‘ is connected to your teaching life . Teacher friends used to exasperate us by asking what plans we had for the summer & we would reply ‘ just work as usual ‘ . All different now & like you summer is a quiet time for us . We don’t go on holiday with the high season crowds & once the school children are on the rampage we prefer lolling around in the garden . York itself is really busy with visitors in the summer ( lots of Chinese & Japanese folk now ) Sometimes I enjoy the buzzing atmosphere but other times I get the early bus in & don’t hang around . Nice to see Stu’s handiwork in your garden , it’s looking lovely & I envy you the backdrop of the river .

    1. I know! I love Michael Palin too. His travel shows on TV are great. And I’ve read a couple of his books too. He’s a fellow Hemingway fan. I read his Hemingway Adventure, where he travels to all the places in Hemingway’s books. And his novel Hemingway’s Chair. Now that we’re retired we avoid high season like the plague as well. Except when we get the timing wrong and it still appears to be high season when we get where we’re going. Please note the barking dogs if you check out those podcasts. 🙂

  3. I’m an expert at summer lolling! I teach from September to June (not full-time, but still pretty busy), and after a week or two of full-fledged flopping when the school year ends, I hit my lolling stride. I always have illusions of how productive I’ll be with household projects, etc., during July and August … never happens!

    I recently finished Big Sky as well, and loved it. I would like to reread all of the Jackson Brodie books in order. I felt as if I picked up on most of the allusions to previous books in Big Sky, but I’m sure there were some details that I’ve forgotten.

    Thanks for the podcast recommendation! I have reacquainted myself with the gym this summer (one non-lolling pursuit, I guess), and having something interesting to listen to is a definite help on the stationary bike or the treadmill.

  4. Huzzah for lolling. After weeks when we could not use our main bathroom, all has been repaired and now I can return…with my books…and bubbles to lie in. I am Loll Supreme. As I got books for my birthday, there are many to work through. Currently reading a biography of Penelope Fitzgerald and not, so far, in love with her but this may improve. Her Oxford arrogance is grating with me. It has, however, made me want to re-read (for nth time) Gaudy Night, written at the time she was there and very probably based on her and her friends in some part. So glad you are enjoying A Time of Gifts. To be able to write like that. His biography is even more gripping. I think we should all do more lolling in the warm months. We could start a movement. (Non-movement).

  5. Not too much lolling going on here, due to garden and family obligations. This heat wave is making me long for days in the a/c with books and ice water though. One question, I just started Big Sky yesterday. Should I hold off, backtrack and read When Will There be Good News first? This one is sooo good, I would be loathe to put it aside, but will defer to your guidance. It’s not like I don’t have a large stack of other TBR books waiting on more lolling time!

    1. I think I’d hold off and read the earlier one first. It will be a treat to meet the character Reggie as a young girl; she’s delightful. Then when she reappears you will get all the references to her and Jackson’s previous relationship. Hope things slow down for you a bit so you can log some major reading time.

  6. My inlaws lived very full lives in their “golden” years but we always joked that what they ate for dinner yesterday, today and tomorrow was of the upmost importance to them. We have become them :).

    1. Ha. Hubby and I always laugh that we’ve been obsessed with meals ever since we started dating. Planning, eating and remarking, then discussing afterward.

    1. Loved it. I guess I didn’t realize that was the same Kay Atkinson. Maybe I need to check out her mysteries.

  7. I want to read Big Sky, but will take your advice and start at the beginning of the Jackson Brodie books. I loved Life after Life…I picked it for a book club read and it generated lots of interesting discussions! My hubby has recently retired, but I’m working one more year. I’m looking forward to more lolling time together and traveling. Thanks for the podcast recommendation!

    1. I hope you enjoy the Jackson Brodie series. I’m jealous; you are in for a treat. P.S. Enjoy your last year of work. My last semester, a good friend kept saying, “What are you on, anyway?” I was smiling all the time. Once the end was in sight, I was able to just enjoy all the moments of my work day without stressing.

  8. Thanks for the book and podcast recommendations. I’m with Alicia S on Life after Life – I chose not to finish it even though I could see she writes with great perception. I found the “Groundhog Day” nature of its structure too annoying. I’d like to try the Jack Brodie series and will take your advice about starting with an earlier book in the series. I will end by admitting to major hydrangea envy. White ones are my favourites. Please send me a few dozen stat 😉

    1. I love Kate Atkinson, but the idea of that one just left me cold, and so I didn’t even begin reading it.
      P.S. Our hydrangea bed is massive, and really old. It was here when Hubby bought the house in the late seventies. We just fertilize it every once in a while and chop it down every few years. Hubby says our very wet spring is responsible for it being so lovely this year.

  9. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend a summer! It resonates with me very much-after a very busy period of three months (and now waiting for things to happen-bureaucracy again-or still ?),I’m looking for holidays,lazy coffees at the beach,swimming,comfortable,lazy cooking,reading,swimming again,watching sunset…..socializing only from time to time….I just need time with myself (and I’m even thinking about post-it on my door : Resting 2-5 PM-. To b….y, no?
    As well as Annie,I’ve got a lot of books :-). Just reading hilarious Alina Bronsky’s book The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (not a cookbook :-))
    I have to check Jackson Brodie books I’ve read,if When Will Be… was among them
    Lazy summer- is the best time-enjoy!

    1. I hope your bureaucracy issues are soon over. I remember wading through that when I tried to get my mum some government sponsored home help. Turned out good in the end… but so frustrating throughout.

  10. Lolling is my special skill but don’t get to practice it too often!
    Big Sky did not disappoint. Agree if you have not read the earlier Jackson Brodie books read them in order before reading Big Sky. I too would like to reread the earlier books to refresh my memory.
    Time after Time is a great read with an intriguing premise of one life many variations.
    Thank you for the podcast recommendation, so far I have not got on board with podcasts as I am a late adopter 🙂

    1. I only recently started listening to podcasts. I’ve found three that I love, and have sampled quite a few that are downright annoying. Voices are sooo important when you are only listening. I’m not sure why some podcasters haven’t been told this. Ha. Maybe they have. 🙂

  11. First of all , I love hydrangeas. But mine having flowered early now just have a lot of vigorous greenery whereas last year I seem to remember them flowering all summer, Any tips ? Lolling, a must in hot weather, but also pottering, I love to potter around when I get bored of lolling. I haven’t read any Kate Atkinson lately but will try those titles you suggested.Btw, Hubby and I do the same, if we haven’t decided what we’re having for lunch the night before, it’ll be the first thing we talk about over our breakfast cuppa !

    1. Vigorous greenery is lovely too. No tips. We mostly just leave ours alone. It’s a very old bed. This year’s wet spring has jump started the blooms, Hubby says.

  12. Definitely lolling with lassitude. Not outside, however, with temps/real feel index headed to 46c by afternoon–but already 39c at 10 am. Excessive heat watch. You’ll find me lolling in my air-conditioned house with my pile of books. Sorry. Not sorry.

  13. I think you’ve made “lolling” my new favorite word, and if I lived where you do… and I imagine it’s much cooler than where I am… I would jealously guard my lolling time as well. Your day lilies and hydrangeas are gorgeous! Cheers to your gardener! xoxox, Brenda

    1. I will pass on the compliments. Not so cool here these days. Temps in the mid 30’s and humidex in mid 40’s. Those temps used to be rare… but are becoming less and less rare in the past five years. But still the politicians look the other way. 🙁

  14. I’m with you about Lolling. Love it But I’ve been busy these days with grandsons visiting. Really busy. So sorry they leave today, but back to lolling. I will take your advice and read “When will there be Good News” first. Just subscribed to the podcast. Keep those recommendations coming. Love them.

  15. Your mornings sound absolutely wonderful. I’m hoping to spend some time lolling in a campground by a creek next week. On the other hand, since there will be three young grandchildren along my dreams of lolling might be a bit unrealistic!

  16. Back to the hydrangeas, we had a wet spring here too,so that explains the early flowering, didn’t know that, thanks for the info ! Your garden is lovely, and your view ! Very conducive to lolling !

  17. Love the hydrangeas! Mine are all leaves this year and no blooms. I think they’re still too young and I cut them back too far a couple years back. Oh well…

    Lolling is about all I have energy for with the temps and humidity near us lately. And I love the idea of not discussing politics with coffee. We need to instigate that and stay calm for a few more hours every day. 🙂

    1. I agree. It’s important for us to stay calm. I don’t mean we should bury our heads in the sand, just have measured responses to all the emotion out there. Harder and harder to do, though.

  18. I have not been lolling much so far this summer—something always seems to interfere. But after I read your post, I cleared a few hours on my schedule and am currently lolling under the shade umbrella on the terrace. Just me and the five marvellous Ninth Street Women that writer Mary Gabriel brought along for tea (okay, my guests are all in the pages of a book, so they only interfere with my lolling in the best way.

  19. Big Sky was great and I am amazed by Atkinson’s ability to infuse her sentences with humor and perceptiveness. I too read it slowly to savor each one. I have another reading of her overall crime fiction pov which I won’t state here because it is a spoiler of sorts.
    Life After Life was a real tour de force and I urge you to give it another try. In a way it’s a prequel to God in Ruins in its depiction of Teddy.
    And Sue, in these lolling days maybe you can find ninety minutes to watch the film God and Monsters. It relates to a blog post of several years ago, and there is nothing I love more than making “cross-cultural” connections.

    1. I may give Life After Life another try. But I’ll wait until after all our travel in the late fall when I’m ready to hunker down by the fire. I remember your recommending Gods and Monsters before. I’ve never managed to watch it. I must do that. But I can’t promise that it will be any time soon.;)

  20. I’m reading and enjoying Big Sky so followed your link to get the earlier book too. Please do me a favor, Ms. Former English Teacher, and change “eek” above to “eke.” (I’m sure it’s just a typo.). Thank you.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. Gad. Sometimes 63 edits is not enough. Even for former English teachers. Ha. It’s a weird thing about the difference between writing and editing one’s own work, and editing the work of others. When I’m reading someone else’s writing, typos or spelling and grammar errors just jump off the page at me. When I’m reading over my own work, I can read right through a mistake. I remember an adult student saying to me years ago about trying to edit her own work… “I can’t tell the difference between what’s in my head and what’s on the page!”

  21. Commenting late but you and I seem to have identical taste in books/authors. I just finished “Big Sky” and love everything of hers that I have read. I do need to read some more of the Jackson Brodie books which I suppose I should have done first! Am now reading Philip Kerr’s final book “Metropolis” and am taking it slow to make it last as long as possible. Bernhard Gunther feels like an old friend and I was truly saddened when I read about Philip Kerr’s death. If you have not read any of his books, I urge you to give them a try. I believe there are 12 in the Bernie Gunther series and definitely start from the beginning.

    1. Thanks for that, Holly. I just looked up Philip Kerr and they have all his books at our library. I do love to find a new writer with a long back list. 🙂

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