St Prex and Founex in the Snow, Istanbul Noir, and the History of Middle-earth

One of the earliest things we noticed on arriving in Switzerland was the views of the Swiss, or of expats who'd lived here for much longer than us, on the weather. Every change was heralded by the words "it's not normal". Thus, a long sunny summer was "not normal". The interruption of the sunshine by two or three weeks of rain and cold (as happened last July) was "not normal". Bitter wind in December was "not normal". A lovely mild spring early in March (as when we first arrived in 2014) was... you guessed it... "not normal".

What is normal weather for this part of Switzerland, I wonder? This winter seems to have gone on longer than last winter, though when I look back at temperature charts, it's relatively the same (though it might have been sunnier, but maybe that's looking back through rose-coloured glasses). And nothing could compare to the grimy slush and icy endlessness of a Montreal winter (where the only saving grace on a day of -40 is that, if you can stay home, the sunshine pouring in through your windows into your nice warm house is very heartening. I always feel guilty about this, not just in thinking of those without homes, but also in wondering whether my rejection of the cold and the long-lasting winter betrays the native population, including the Inuit, who may have participated more fully in all the changing seasons of the land. But then, -40 in the deep silence of the woods does not feel half so miserable as -40 on a dark morning, surrounded by the wind tunnel-forming concrete hulks of a city street).

All that to say I'm sharing more snowy photos today! The first batch is of a walk in the medieval village of St Prex, a couple of months ago:









Approximately 1,000-year-old church

View from the hill of the church
 





And here's our village under snow (down by the lake, it's snowed a handful of times since November, but it never stays on the ground for longer than half a day. It's fun to look up and see the snow-covered tops of the hills and mountains, and to not have to live with the inevitable brown slush and grey polluted snowbanks that follow snowfall in a city):




Then there's ROW80. I went through my box of Writing To Do and pulled out the notebooks for NaNo2014 (this story needs a title!) but in the process discovered -- a la Christopher Tolkien finding bits and pieces of his father's papers -- more parts of Larksong that I haven't typed up yet. I've got to get into a regular habit of spending at least 15 minutes, if not 30, every morning typing up these handwritten drafts.

The second part of my update is long, and detailed partly for record-keeping purposes (I love this blog as a record of books read!); feel free to skip it!

Speaking of Christopher Tolkien, and my other ROW80 goal of reading all the unread books in the house, I've just completed a project started in 2012 -- rereading all 12 of the books in the History of Middle-earth series. I first read them all over 14-20 years ago (dated, in Christopher Tolkien fashion, by various slips and receipts used as bookmarks or to take notes on that I left in between the pages during my first reading. From these, and from the way I left everything but a schoolbag behind at my parents' house when I moved to Turkey for a year in 2002-2003, it seems clear that I read the twelfth book in the winter of 2002, exactly 14 years ago. I'm not sure when I first read the first book, the Book of Lost Tales I; it could have been any time between 1995 and 1999. When I was young, I was intimidated by the books, because all 12 were never displayed at once in order in any bookstore. Sometimes there'd be only one, sometimes a handful, and it was never clear what they were. Gradually, with the advent of the Internet, and with flipping through some of the copies, I figured out what they were and what their proper order was, and started on them, but that could only have happened after I was 15 or so, when I first started travelling downtown to the bookstores by myself), and it's been fun to see my notes from then, to reread my favourite parts (The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers and the draft Fourth Age stories), and to rediscover certain passages on language, stories, and the patterns of subcreation, not to mention the references here and there to other authors, including Neil Gaiman.

Now to turn to a reread of Tolkien's letters! Among other things...

One of the books I'm in the middle of is the intriguing Istanbul Noir, published by Akashic Books in their noir series of anthologies, launched in 2004, of which each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.



I discovered the Noir anthologies when Diana Gabaldon contributed a story to Phoenix Noir. I can't wait to see which authors are featured in Montreal Noir!

Then there's this fellow, who comes to visit me every morning:



Are you a fan of noir stories?

Do you have an animal that's not a pet that comes by regularly?

Comments

Hi Deniz - do marauding sea-gulls, maggoty magpies, bad jays ... parade their talons and beady eyes ... at the little tits, the blackbirds, robins, wrens and the pigeons - and attack regularly - thugs! Then there's a fox or two ... I'm sure I can think of a few other bugs and beasties ...

Still snow is so beautiful ... but horrid when it slushes up. I'm hoping we might get away with it this year - yet a few years ago it snowed monstrously in April. Those photos are lovely to see - the Church and that window is a bright reminder ...

The weather doesn't really change - I've just read a post about Roman sea-levels .. much higher than now. William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey a deep water port in 1066 - but now at sea level ... so we have phases of snow, rain and shine changing patterns - but over time not much really.

Poor Emily - looks like saying I'm cold for goodness sake let me get home .. cheers Hilary
Crystal Collier said…
Gorgeous photos. I love the feel of the village.

Isn't it wonderful when you get to relive literary loves? I went back and picked up the book that got me started into adult literature a few years ago, and rereading it was like wrapping up in a cozy blanket. So wonderful.
So cool with all the roofs covered in snow. Although I bet someone told you that's not normal.
S.P. Bowers said…
Wow, I'm still a little jealous of you living there. If you ever find out what normal is let us know.
Elise VanCise said…
What beautiful photos! I love Noir too. I read all sorts of it and the movies too :) I just finished The Maltese Falcon novel and am going to watch the dvd tonight. *sighs Bogart :)
Beth Camp said…
Hi, Deniz, Lovely to see the photos of your town, even with that tracery of snow. When I'm writing, I rely on photos like these, some I've taken, some I find (along with videos, blogs, and paintings) to help me truly 'see' the setting for whatever story I'm working on. What is 'normal'for one place is not at all normal in a different time (and place). That goal of reading all the unread books in your house would probably take me another 50 years at my house! What a goal.. . and to reread Tolkien. Magical! Have a great week.
sage said…
It's lovely there... As for animals visiting... there are some birds that keep coming back to the feeders and the squirrels (some that take time to look indoors) and the deer that seem to have expensive taste and eat new plants inside of eating in the woods...
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks, Hilary! We saw our first hedgehog the other day -- can you believe we'd never seen one in person before? And yes, Emily was cold :-) So were we -- wind off the lake! It was nice to return home after that :-)

I agree, Crystal, rereading has its own particular pleasures...

Thanks, Alex and Sara! Maybe if we stay here for a long time we'll be the ones telling newcomers "it's not normal"!

Thanks, Elise! Hmm, now I feel like watching that movie, too...

I know, it's an impossible goal, Beth. I just ordered some new books yesterday! I had to, there's that new Tolkien-related book coming out (Dr Fimi's A Secret Vice)...

Thanks, sage! We have a communal garden beyond our patio, and I've been wondering if we're allowed to have bird feeders.
Zan Marie said…
As always, your photos astound me! I need to get back to Switzerland!
We have lots of birds, sometimes including wild turkeys. Rabbits and groundhogs have regular hours, and homes in the periphery of our yard. Lately, I've seen a red squirrel darting about. Once, years back, our previous dog found a skunk we never saw. We have snakes and toads and frogs, and bats in the neighborhood, as well.

We've had less than ten inches of snow in my part of upstate NY this winter. Last night -thunderstorms. I know you'll laugh when I say it - but that's just NOT NORMAL.

Hooray on finishing the Middle-Earth series. And, even if she was cold, I love the picture with your little girl in the forefront, and the village laid out behind her.
Nas said…
Loved all these photos, thanks for sharing Deniz.
Deniz Bevan said…
Come visit, Zan Marie!

Thanks, Shan! Really, no snow? But I know what you mean -- back in Montreal, they're having the same "not normal" weather, with unseasonable warmth one week and then back to cold...

Thanks, Nas!

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