The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

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I have a rule about books: if it involves death in the first chapter, I generally don’t read it, because I feel it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the story.

I made an exception for this novel by Rachel Joyce, because it comes highly recommended and I have yet to decide if I made the right choice or not. Its a very emotional read, as you walk with Harold Fry, who leaves home one day to post a letter to an old colleague dying of cancer and never goes home. Instead he decides to walk from his town at the bottom of England, to hers at the top of the country, where she is in a hospice, in a move of faith and in the hope of saving her from terminal illness.

In terms of construction, Joyce is a master. The story flows well, the characters are rounded, and the fact that the themes of redemption, forgiveness and healing from the past are fluidly woven together makes an excellent read. However, it is just a really sad story.

It ends on a high and beautiful note, and I think I’m glad I read it. I paired this one with the 2007 Spookfontein Phantom, a bordeaux-style blend that is well constructed and fruity, with berry flavours. If we’re talking about dealing with ghosts from the past, then this wine goes perfectly with this book.

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Not all that glitters is gold

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There is a little old bookshop close to where I work. Its the size of a small cupboard, with shelves up to the roof piled with books of all shapes and sizes. It is here I stumbled across Tobias Hills book, The Love of Stones. Deciding not to be deceived by attractive covers again, I bought it and took it home with me.

This is not the kind of book I normally read, it is classified as “historical thriller”. In some parts it was tedious because of Hill’s meticulous descriptions. At times I felt lost because he transitions between characters so quickly, I wasn’t always sure who’s point of view I was reading at the time. However, Hill uses his meticulous descriptions to bring to life a very different world: the world of lapidaries

The story traces the events of Katherine Sterne, a 25 year old woman in the 21st century who has dedicated her life to recovering the lost jewel forged in the 1500’s known as the Three Brethren (if you’re interested, it is a real jewel, or at least it has existed in history). It also traces the story of two Iraqi Jews trying to make their fortunes in 19th century England as lapidaries, Daniel and Salmon Levy. To see where their paths cross through the centuries is what makes this story intriguing, and where they eventually meet is where the Brethren will be found.

Its definitely worth a read if you’re a history buff. Sometimes Hill fails to explain some of the terminology or historical implications of certain characters, but if you can work around that, you’ll enjoy this story.

I paired it with the absolutely delicious Anura Cabernet Sauvignon from the hills of Simondium. This jewel of a wine has rich raspberry and fruit flavours which are complex and memorable, and the makers describe this wine as “the fulfillment of a dream and the pursuit of perfection” much like Katherine’s search for the Three Brethren.

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Soul detox

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Perhaps you’ve noticed that things have been a little quiet on this blog lately, perhaps you haven’t noticed at all, and that’s okay too.

I’ve heard it said that comparison is the root of all unhappiness, and in the 21st century, social media is the source of all comparison, isn’t it? Social image projection is something I have been wrestling with since reading this particularly insightful article on why millennial’s are the way they are. It occurred to me that when I scratched below the surface of those who I admired (and envied) on social media, friends and former colleagues who just seemed to have everything going for them, I found unhappy, broken lives. This came as somewhat as a surprise, I know these women personally, I go for coffee with them, but what I find is that what they portray and where they are genuinely at, are chasms apart from each other. And I am guilty of doing this too.

So after a recent particularly rough patch, I decided to push the “reset” button on my life. For me, this included coming clean on social media about how hard life had actually been and then detoxing from the poisonous comparison that social media incubates. It has also meant that for the past two weeks, I have not been on my personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profiles, I haven’t even been on this blog. I even deleted the apps for these sites off my phone. When I got an email yesterday from Facebook (in my spam box) that I had 41 notifications pending, I wasn’t even tempted to look. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is trying to get hold of me through the platforms, and then I think that the people who really matter to me all have my cell phone number and email address, so they can contact me that way.

It’s been an extremely liberating exercise to do this. I no longer feel constantly bored, I find other ways to stimulate my mind, I’m not constantly checking my phone, and I have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives. I have a deep joy knowing that my identity is not found in what I want other people to think of me and how I manage my online personality profile. I’m taking joy in interacting with real people and not being flooded by information which is at best 40% true. Its a soul detox, and its been good.