Archives for November 2014
When we left Belgium, the Princess was 5. At that time, in my office in Brussels, there was a very annoying intern. His mother came to visit. She was a primary school teacher. I told her that we were moving back to Ireland and she asked about the Princess’s reading ability. I confessed that she couldn’t read. The intern’s mother was shocked and pointed out that the intern had been able to read well before starting school. She commented that the Princess would be miles behind and would never catch up. I was concerned, of course I was. I spent hours with herself, trying to teach her how to read which was torture for both of us and a completely wasted effort.
Back in Dublin, she started in senior infants [the second year of Irish schooling] and had a lovely teacher who assured me that she would be fine and was utterly unfazed by the Princess’s inability to read. At the start of the year the Princess could neither speak Irish nor read, by the end of the year, she could do both. A triumph for the virtues of the Irish education system. The fact remains that she was nearly 6 when she learnt to read which is on the late side of the spectrum. But she loves to read. Recently I asked her, “What are you reading?” and she replied “I’m re-reading Little Women as a palate cleanser between Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.” Never catch up indeed, hah! I might add that she is reading aloud Georgette Heyer’s Arabella for my mother whose eyesight is not good. Hah again!
What was the advice, you ask? Don’t worry, when your child starts to read, it is, in my experience, no indication at all of future reading habits. So there.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
I was quite charmed by this as I read it but in retrospect, it feels a bit like the kind of thing that a parent might give to a child to try to make maths fun and fascinating. I’m ambivalent.
Prenez Garde by Terence DeVere White
I quite enjoyed this book written in the voice of a precocious child during the War of Independence. Like Elizabeth Bowen’s book written about the same period, these upper middle class people are very preoccupied about the social status of the Black and Tans. It is entertaining and enlightening though. Herself read it and enjoyed it also.
A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Oh Lord, this nearly killed me. Unless you live under a rock you will be aware that this is part one of a several volume autobiography which has been outrageously successful.
Until the author’s father actually dies, whole chunks of this book are unbearably dull. You feel like you are an adolescent in a small town in Norway. In other words, you hover on the brink of death from boredom. Notwithstanding that conveying this is a form of genius, it’s a really useless form, in my view. The book really picks up after the father dies (I’m giving nothing away here, it’s on the cover) and I was so engaged that I am almost thinking of picking up volume 2. Almost.
If you are thinking of reading this book, you will need to consult this link. Also, in terms of the language regime, it may help you to consider what Mr. Waffle said to me when I was questioning him on this point: “When a Norwegian says he speaks 5 languages, you can bet 3 of them are Norwegian.”
A Spanish Lover by Joanna Trollope
A Passionate Man by Joanna Trollope
The Choir by Joanna Trollope
I’m tired of Joanna Trollope now, I need a little break. The Choir is the best of these three for my money but none of them really worked for me.
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen
I thought that this would be laugh out loud funny. It’s amusing in parts. I have learnt a lot about what it means to be Jewish. It’s complicated.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I found the start of this book really fascinating and very moving. I thought it lost focus a bit towards the end and I’m not sure I would read all the other volumes but the parts about her early childhood were beautifully written and gave extraordinary insights into what it was like to be black in the American South less than a century ago.
Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy
Collection of shorter extracts/stories etc about the skeleton detective. About as successful as these things normally are.
Skulduggery Pleasant and the Dying of the Light by Derek Landy
The last Skulduggery Pleasant book and a triumphant return to form for the skeleton detective after a couple of lacklustre outings. Or so the boys and I thought, Herself didn’t like it much.
In the Woods by Tana French
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It’s a detective story and a page turner but also very well written; quite lyrical in places without ever being dull. The author has written quite a few books and I plan to read them all.
Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas
The title tempted me to read this. It’s about a retired Spanish literary publisher who comes to Dublin for a holiday. Really not for me. Literary fiction in translation can be very tough going and this was a good example. To be fair, I don’t think I would have liked the book in Spanish but the translation did it no favours. Frankly, when you read the excerpts from Ulysses in the text with relief because they are less hard going than the rest of the book, something has gone very wrong.
My colleague (from Roscommon) uttered these, slightly sarcastic words when I told him that Mr. Waffle and I were going to the Midlands this weekend.
We went for a walk on a peninsula that sticks out into Lough Ree. The start of the walk was a bit unnerving:
It was really lovely though and the cattle were peaceful. There was an abandoned castle which was full of romance and reminded me of Cair Paravel when the Pevensie children returned at the start of Prince Caspian. We had the peninsula entirely to ourselves.
Roscommon? Lovely in November.
Tiny Problem 1
I went out for dinner with an old school friend last night. This was the culmination of many months of planning. Over the months I had booked the restaurant three times and cancelled twice. The day before yesterday, the restaurant people left me a voicemail asking whether I was still coming [you can see why they might be concerned]. I rang them back and explained that I was. Then, yesterday morning my friend texted and said that she wanted to go somewhere local and later. So, I rang the restaurant at 4 and cancelled again. At 5.40 my friend telephoned and said, “Actually, I’m making much better time than I expected, have you cancelled the restaurant?” “I have,” I said arcticly. “Why don’t you ring them, they may not have given the table away yet.” I bit my tongue and I rang. “We can’t give you a table in the restaurant but we can give you a table in the gastobar.” [Far from gastrobars we were reared etc.] “Fine,” I said. In the pair of us went. “Oh,” said my friend, “it’s such a pity we’re not in the restaurant, it’s far nicer.” I glared at her and she added hastily, “And it’s all my fault, of course.”
Mr. Waffle took the children to school today as I was going to a conference in the opposite direction. They trooped out at 8.30 and I didn’t need to leave until 9. For the first time, I contemplated breakfast alone at home. I tidied up the breakfast things and put on the kettle. Just as the kettle boiled, I heard a cheery voice say, “Hello, hello!” as the cleaner let herself in the front door.
I cycled to the conference in driving rain. As I was locking my bike it tipped over neatly sending the contents of the basket into an enormous puddle and emptying out my handbag entirely. I fished out flattened, floating scraps of paper and electronic devices as best I might but not before leaping backwards to avoid the falling bike and landing in the puddle up to my knees.
The base of my thumb was a little sore and reading Dooce’s blog, I thought I might have injured myself from constant candy crushing. Dooce obviously acquired her injury while earning a living so that made it more glamourous. So this morning I took candy crush off my phone to save my thumb. This evening I got the train to Cork. When I went into the newsagent at the station, they were sold out of the Irish Times so I was left to entertain myself as best I might with no candy crush, no wifi and a very dull work related book which I have been carrying around in my handbag fooling myself that I will read. It was also, obviously, still damp after its morning dip.
Please tell me your stupid problems so I don’t feel utterly shallow or, at least, not utterly alone in my shallowness. And there is some fundamental problem with the syntax of that last sentence and I am too tired to fix it. Is that TP 5? I think it might be.