A postcard from Florence

Car on road among trees in Italy

Dear Sam,

 

Ciao from Florence!

We’re here for a few days to explore and enjoy some sunshine, good food and gelato.  I’ll take your advice and avoid plastic by choosing a cornet in place of a tub!

When I go on holiday, I like to take a book that suits the destination, so before we left home I downloaded the audiobook of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View from Librivox and it’s proving to be the perfect soundtrack to our trip.

Florence, Italy skyline
A view of the river Arno in Florence, as requested in ‘A Room with a View’.

A presto!

Much love,

Claire

 

 

A helping hand

Dear Sam,

How are you?  I’ve been a bit under the weather with a cold this week and I wanted to thank you for telling me about the TED talks. Being poorly has given me the perfect opportunity to put my feet up and make myself feel better by listening to the inspirational speakers.

In TED’s spirit of sharing, G and I have just joined Helpful Peeps, an online community where you can offer time, skills and knowledge to help other people out. I think their motto strikes a chord for us here at Staircase 917, Life is better when we help each other.  Where we live, people are looking for all sorts of help, from learning a language to advice about handicrafts, so there’s scope to offer support whatever your strengths may be! Apparently, there are members in more than 80 countries – do you know if they’ve reached the US?

And, thinking of the power of words to move and inspire, I’m sure you’ll want to join me today in wishing a happy 103rd birthday to Dylan Thomas. Here he is reading his Poem in October, written in 1944.

Much love,

Claire

 

 

 

 

 

A word in your ear

Dear Sam,

I’m really pleased to hear you had a good time in Italy – so did we! We’re just back from Sicily and I enjoyed playing Free Rice to pass the time while we were travelling. I think it’s a great idea to combine a game with such a good cause, so thank you for letting me know about it.

While we were away I also enjoyed having a bit more time for reading. For the flight, I took something absorbing but light, one of  Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, Black Sheep. Being in Sicily, I also packed one of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries, The Patience of the Spider, and it was fun to see some of the places we’d visited appearing as part of the plot!

When I’m on holiday I usually take an audio book with me, too. Recently, I’ve listened to several, including the wonderful Barchester Towers , on  Librivox – have you come across it? It’s a great source of free recordings read by volunteers, either chapter by chapter or as whole works. And, if you feel inspired to join in, you can become involved as a volunteer reader if you choose.

What’s on your reading – or listening – list for the autumn? Or, the fall, I should say!

Much love,

Claire

The companionship of books.

Dear Sam,

How is your decluttering coming along?  I think splitting what can be a daunting task into daily efforts is an ideal approach.  I’m sure your house will look spick and span by Easter Sunday and the charity shop will be grateful, too.

Books are one of the things I often buy from, and donate to, charity shops.  It’s not news to you that I love reading, of course, since we met studying English. These days, as I make my way through my to-be-read pile, I try to pass my old books along and make room for something new. Over here we have great specialist Oxfam bookshops which are always good for a browse. Do you have similar shops in the U.S?

I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately as I’ve just done a fascinating course. It was called Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing. It was one of the myriad subjects offered to study online at no cost through Futurelearn.com.  I’m really interested in the way that reading can help us at challenging times and I learned that the concept of bibliotherapy goes back centuries: the entrance to the sacred library of Pharaoh Rameses II bore the beautiful inscription, ‘Healing-place of the soul.’  I also recently heard about some research which found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, more than taking a break with a cup of tea, apparently. Reading with a cup in hand must be extra-relaxing!

So, when we give someone the gift of a book – perhaps this weekend instead of, or alongside, an Easter Egg – it seems that we’re doing more good than we realise.

Much love and Happy Easter,

Claire