Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Queen of the Flat Pack

Yesterday I assembled 5 flat pack bookcases without any tantrums, odd bits and pieces left over or any of the other dramas usually associated with the task. Yes five bookcases, I have a lot of books.

How did I achieve this momentous task? On my own. All the menfolk who had offered to assist suddenly had urgent reasons to be elsewhere. As I still bear the scars, emotional and physical, from assembling the bed - we had three screws left over, and I was assured that these were spares, of course they were and had nothing to do with the bed collapsing when the cat jumped up, no no no - I was quite happy to be left alone with the boxes and the toolbox.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Two Things

The latest release from the master, which is interestingly a non-Discworld book. I will admit that I was concerned that because he has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's that the book may not be that good, but Terry Pratchett on a bad day is far superior to most other authors. I needn't have worried. He's on great satirical and comic form in this one - set in the Nation, which is one of the Mothering Sunday Islands in the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean (held by the British to be an extension of the Bank Holiday Monday Islands). The Nation has been devastated by a Tsunami and now its up to Mau and Daphne (aka Ermintrude, well wouldn't you change it?), who, with the ship's parrot, is the only survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, to create a new Nation. As the great man says 'Thinking: This book contains some'.

I went to see this last night, for the first time, although the friend I saw it with was on her third viewing! Unless you are a regular reader of this blog, you may not be aware that I hate musicals, Rent left me cold, The Sound of Music is just plain annoying and there was a bad incident a few years ago in Buddy: The Musical which I won't expand on here in order to protect the innocent.

I've thought about this a lot and essentially my problem is that the genre is basically cheesy and corny but somehow its fans, and the people involved in it, expect the genre ed to be treated with gravitas and reverence that I only give to say Ibsen or Shakespeare - yes I know Shakespeare has its corny moment and yes I have sat through Kiss Me Kate. So its weird that I was quite happy to go and watch this, especially as I am not an ABBA fan either, and I really enjoyed the film. Oh it has its faults don't get me wrong, but it sends itself and the genre up so beautifully - the image of the boys in flippers dancing will stay with me for a while - and the main cast, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Christine Branaksi, Colin Firth, Stellan SkarsgÄrd and Pierce Brosnan (who has more courage than anyone because he can't sing, but still goes for it) are superb - I don't think I've laughed at a movie so much in years.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

'We have seen you from afar and we are dying of hunger'

Is the greeting used by Midnight,the Bushman, who is the title character of this story. I've been waiting to read this novel as I knew it was going to be an enormous treat and I wasn't disappointed, Richard Zimler is that rare combination of a great storyteller who can write in a literary, yet, accessible style, which is emotional without being overly sentimental. John Zarco Stewart, the main protagonist, is an engaging and complex character, whose relationships with his family and friends, Daniel, Violeta and especially Midnight, the African John's father rescues from slavery, dominate his life and the story. I've been on an emotional journey with John as he crossed continents and comes to term with his own humanity and that of those whose surround him.

Zimler's prose and magical mixing of history and fiction is superb, but at the heart of the novel are his characters. Midnight, who, after a long journey, drinks so much that his belly swells to near bursting. John, whose family is destroyed by an act of betrayal

Superb and never mawkish, this novel travels from nineteenth century Porto, to London and then to the US and, the southern US sections of this novel portray the evils of slavery. But the ultimate message of this novel is that redemption that comes through love and the power of freedom.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Did you see this?

From the BBC News Website - Music tastes link to personality .

I live underneath a couple of country and western fans (who also like Daniel O'Donnell, I must have been really evil in a previous life) and the sound of their favourite, 'I killed my dog and my wife left me' album is currently assaulting my eardrums from above - and 'hardworking and outgoing' are the last two words I would ever use in connection with their names.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Underground London

As someone whose spent most of her working life in and around Central London I found this a fascinating account of the various bits of subterranean London, with various historical asides. Smith spends a night with the night workers on the tube - I really don't want to be a patrolman working alone at night 'pacing out the deserted tunnels with his lamp and his walkie talkie and his large box-spanner' - and one who may or may not have had a ghostly encounter in a Jubilee line tunnel.

He also meets, the men disinterring remains from St Andrew's crypt - Smith needed to immunised against smallpox and be cleared by a home office pathologist before joining them - its a full crypt dating back to before the Black Death, which is estimated to have killed half the population of fourteenth century England. I love how Smith describes their respectful professionalism, even those the inhabitants have been dead for centuries, 'They've all got descendants.... 'You'd expect it too, if it was your own family.'

Smith describes the subterranean diverted rivers and culverts of London - the Fleet is probably the most famous - the buried tram lines, the dead tube stations, the mothballed Royal Mail underground railway and tries to discover the miles of tunnels that the MoD have, allegedly, sunk under the capital. All in all its amazing that we don't have more landslips in London.