Monday, 30 June 2008

Love This

OK so I work on the Southbank and I can't believe that I didn't know that this was outside the Royal Festival Hall until yesterday. As Meltdown is over I think it will be off soon, so watch this from its time at the V&A. Beautiful.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Not around much but still reading and working...

And the Agatha Christie challenge continues. I've now read twenty five of the detective novels all in order of publication - it should be twenty six but one is out of print and I can't track down a copy. This looks impressive until you realise that I'm only in 1936 (she was first published in the UK right up until 1976 - with a couple of collections not published until the 1990s) and I've still got fifty nine books to go.

I am reading other books as well, one is Debi Alper's Trading Tatiana. Like Debi's previous book, Nirvana Bites, this book is set in South London and its full of local colour and we do end up back at the Nirvana Housing Co-Op, which is wonderful. The book is fast and furious, Debi has a great sense of humour, the scene where Jo first meet's Bare Botty Man's botty (you have to read this) is wonderful. What is also fantastic is that, as anyone whose met Debi or has read her blog knows, she has a very strong sense of social justice which comes across in this novel. If you can get your hands on a copy of this and read it, do, you will be entertained, terrified and ultimately moved.

This is an amazing book, part fact, part fiction, although the two are woven together so closely that it is hard to see where one begins and the other ends. Richard Zimler had a chance encounter with Sana at the Perth Writers' Festival, autographing a copy of his first book The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon for her. The next day Sana committed suicide, an act witnessed by Zimler, and he is propelled into an obssessive investigation of her life in order to try to understand why. He uncovers the story of Sana's friendship with Helena, a remarkable relationship which endures across the divide - Sana is a Palestinian and Helena an Israeli Jew - a relationship which opens the book up into an exploration of the personal issues at the heart of the conflict and atrocities, big and small, committed on a daily basis in the name of politics and religion. I couldn't put this amazing book down and ended up reading it in one sitting.

Monday, 9 June 2008

I should be working, but...

I couldn't put this book down. I read and enjoyed Kate Morton's previous book, The House at Riverton and as this one takes a similar format there wasn't much chance of me disliking this one.

This is another sprawling saga spanning a hundred years, it starts with the discovery of a little girl abandoned on the docks following the sea voyage from England to Australia. A little girl who doesn't remember her own name. Ninety years later she bequeaths a Cornish Cottage to her granddaughter, who slowly discovers the just how and why her grandmother ended up alone at the docks. I particularly loved the use of fairytales, written by one of the main protagonists, as a device revealing some elements of the story. I did guess quite early on who Nell, as the little girl is named, really was, but I didn't guess why she was abandoned.

This was absolutely perfect reading for my current state of mind and if you like this kind of book, one I would recommend.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


That's me. My pleas for payment have all been ignored, yet again. Grr. I feel some begging phone calls coming on tomorrow... What is really annoying is that I am still working flat out but my bank account feels like I have been unemployed for months. My bank manager is being understanding but his patience will be exhausted if some money doesn't arrive in my account soon.

The good news is that I managed to get to Milton Keynes on Friday, thanks to a loan from my generous friend Wonderful, so I could hand in my ECA before the midnight deadline. I've been so busy with work that it amazes me that I've actually finished, I nearly dropped out in January for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I wasn't enjoying myself. But thanks to some support from the OU I got there and I actually enjoyed writing my ECA - which doesn't mean that anyone will actually enjoy reading it! But its all over and I've got the first summer for four years free of study and I can hardly wait.

I have of course been reading all the way through this, mainly old favourites as my brain couldn't cope with anything new - I've added to the list at the side of the blog. But my reading has slowed down, which is never a good sign.

I have to particularly recommend one book, The Helene Hanff Omnibus. I was prompted to pick this up by Table Talk's reference to 84, Charing Cross Road in her blog. If you have never read 84, Charing Cross Road, do. Its a wonderful collection of letters, showing how friendships can form from the simplest thing. The other books in the Omnibus include Underfoot in Show Business which details Hanff's attempts to become a playwright in New York, as she says of producer's '...if they take you to lunch they don't want your play.' 84, Charing Cross Road is just superb. The Duchess of Bloomsbury is Hanff's diary of her first visit to London following the success of 84, Charing Cross Road, she met Frank Doel's wife, Nora, for the first time and I love how Nora insists on calling her 'Helen'.

My particular favourite in the Omnibus is Apple of My Eye, as Helene and her friend Patsy explore New York. It's hard not to be moved when Helene describes their visit to the World Trade Center and how she 'gloried in the high-handed, high-flying, damn-your-eyes audacity that had sent the Trade Center's twin columns rising impudently above the skyline at the moment when New York was declared to be dying, and so deep in debt it couldn't afford workers to dispose of the Center's trash, police its plaza or put out its fires.' Long may that audacity reign!

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was, via his writings, Helene's mentor and a champion of plain English and Q's Legacy is her tribute to him and also narrates her adventures on two later trips to London. She describes an encounter in Winchester Cathedral, which I recognise '... I started down a long side aisle ... with one eye on the stone graves I was walking on. That's how I came on Jane Austen's grave. To look down at a spot in a stone floor and know that Jane lies buried beneath can shake you.' It does. But only when you know just who Jane Austen was and what she achieved in her short life.

Sadly the Omnibus is out of print, but copies are still in circulation, try Helene she's amazing...