What a bit of sun we had at the weekend. The wildlife went wild with life. The horses snorted and grazed on the hill, flicking and swishing their tails. Bees bumbled from flower to flower. Butterflies flitted on the breeze and carved their hearts onto the leaves where they settled. Blossom tugged down and blown by every turn of the air. Raucous morning singing and the clamorous requests for more food from the young birds stuffed into every crack in the wall, overhanging tile, hole in the tree or crook of the branch, was the constant music of the day. The sun climbed high and the birds grew impatient. "It's here," the mother bird cried. "What's here?" squawked the father bird. "Summer, summer is here now." "But it cant be, it was only just Christmas," the father bird protested. "What's Christmas?" shrieked a baby bird. "What does Christmas taste like?" shrieked his sister. "I want to eat Christmas," another baby bird demanded. "Never mind Christmas, Summer is here. OUT!!! OUT!!! EVERYBODY OUT!!!" the mother bird cried. So they all flew out, in every direction but the right one. They collided with windows and tumbled from branch to branch. They would get the hang of it. Summer was here. Summer was only visiting though. Summer was just popping in for a chat. The winds shifted and blew in from the north. Spring is a tricksy thing. The horses didn't mind though. The grass was still green. The little birds would shiver in the trees. "Dad?" said a baby bird, between the shivers. "What son?" "Is this Christmas?"
This sturdy and well presented edition by Hesperus Press presents eight stories by E.M.Forster with foreword by Amit Chaudhuri. It's a shame these stories were never printed during Forster's lifetime because, in a way, they were written to challenge a different age. That isn't to say that the stories are worthless, Forster remains one of the shining lights of the last century and his powers of irony, symbolism and good storytelling are all showcased here again. The societal landscape of moralists and mores may have shifted but hypocrisy and class differences are targets that Forster can still hit even from beyond the grave.
Here are some more pictures of yet another harbinger of spring, the Orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines). The undersides of his wings are marked with a mottled camouflage pattern that helps him blend in and go unnoticed among the leaves. The top side of his wings are more striking and are a direct warning telling anybody who fancies a butterfly sized snack that he doesn't taste very nice at all.
He's filling up on the sweetest nectar from Debbie's Candytuft (Iberis Sempervirens). He's a common butterfly in the British Isles but still a very handsome sight.
David Barrie's second Franck Guerin detective novel Night-Scented picks up several months after the first book Wasp-waisted left off. Guerin is still on temporary assignment at the Brigade Criminelle, a Major Crimes Unit in Paris. He's settled in a little more but still fairly desperate to get back to his former employment in the DST, chasing eco-terrorists. It's not essential to read these two books in order by the way. There are no crucial spoilers. You will get a better introduction to some of the characters in Wasp-waisted though. There's a picture of the Alexandre III bridge on the cover of Night-Scented. It's an elegant looking bridge, pretty in the lamplight and underneath run the dark waters of the Seine. Less pretty but also an important location in the book is the Mirabeau bridge. They do provide a very potent image of a place where two worlds cross each other. Franck's current case involves the murder of several prominent business leaders that have some connection, through investment, to the development of a new perfume called Night-Scented. Also linked are a colony of homeless vagabonds who inhabit the underside of the Alexandre III bridge. I don't know how much of the bridge symbolism I picked up on is deliberate or just coincidence, though I tend to treat coincidences with the same caution as our detective. "I don't like coincidences," says Franck. "They make me uneasy." Barrie continues to impress with his descriptions of various locations in Paris, often off the beaten tourist path. His portrayal of the sometimes confusing world of big business is also very assured and authentic. We at last learn a little more about the infamous Corsican operation that was introduced in the first book as the reason for Franck's enforced secondment, though Franck remains, as far as his history goes, still a man of mystery. The narrative style, I suppose, doesn't really lend itself to flashbacks. I don't think we even make it back to his apartment this time round. Perhaps giving Franck too much history would add unnecessary baggage to the plot, which is a complex one. The characters are well drawn and their motives and psychology are well thought out. I like how with a line, a statement or detail the ground can shift under our feet and our line of inquiry has to turn to a new or previously discarded suspect. It all makes for a very pleasing and stylish detective/thriller experience. Night-Scented will be published in the UK on the 1st of June 2010.
Harry has still got the chops to get down to the serious business of collecting every stick in the county. And if those pesky sticks think they are safe floating on the river, well they've got another think coming.