It is November so I am partaking in National Blog Posting Month and I will be posting every day. I am unclear whether this is still a thing on other parts of the internet, perhaps I am like those soldiers in the jungle still fighting World War II many years after hostilities have ceased. Something for you to look forward to.
Archives for November 2019
Turning into my Mother
Daniel: Do we have any raspberry jam?
Me: No but there’s some plum jam in a jar marked tumeric in the fridge.
Herself and her friends were walking along the road when they saw a car hit a parked car and take off the side of it. The driver of the offending car, got out, had a look and hopped back into her car leaving no note or any indication that she had caused the damage.
The Princess and her friends leapt into action, ringing doorbells along the street but to no avail. Her friend N had taken the licence plate of the offending hit and runner and they were anxious to pass on the details. But no one answered the doors and they were about to give up when they spotted an older woman in a dressing gown emerging from a house on the road. Herself leapt up on her bicycle and caught the lady with the others sprinting along behind (possibly a slightly alarming sight for the frail elderly woman but let us hope not).
It turned out that the older woman was the owner of the damaged car and she had just come out of hospital. She was very grateful to the young detectives and gave them all a hug. They passed on the information they had and gave their contact details. That evening N got a call from the guards asking about the incident and it looks like they are going to pursue it.
Aren’t teenagers sometimes lovely all the same?
Still Sticking it to the Man
A couple of weeks ago, I was cycling back to my, very traditional, workplace after lunch wearing my, very traditional, work suit when I had to stop to walk past the Extinction Rebellion installation. As I looked in, who did I see, with her face painted with leaves, only one of the Princess’s friends from primary school. I called out to her and she trotted across to me with a big smile. We had a friendly chat across the barricades and she explained that despite her very best efforts, she had not been arrested. The Guards said that she was too young to be arrested. “Where is [herself]?” she asked. “At school,” I said offering up silent thanks and asked, “Why aren’t you at school?” She paused and then offered, “My parents are hippies?” Fair enough, I suppose.
“Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie
I thought this was a really good book. Thought provoking and well written. I’m still thinking about it and I found the end really shocking. It’s based on Antigone. Do not, in any way, let that put you off.
“Other People’s Countries” by Patrick McGuinness
There is no plot to this. A man who grew up between countries (Belgium and England – and many others where his parents worked) tries to capture the essence of a small town in Wallonia. The writing is exceptionally good. I loved it.
“The Children of Men” by PD James
I generally like science fiction and the concept here is clever – people have stopped having children and the end times are coming – and the consequences well thought through. The narrator is, deliberately, I think, quite unsympathetic. There are parts where it works really well but ultimately I found the narrator’s relationship with the main female character unsatisfactory and that made it drag a bit for me.
“Big Sky” by Kate Atkinson
I love Kate Atkinson and I loved this book. It’s about modern day slavery and not as grim as that sounds although quite grim in places. Furthermore, Hodges Figgis accepted â‚¬20 in stamps on various loyalty cards (several of them out of date) which I managed to dredge up from the bottom of my handbag (people love to be behind me in the queue) and I got it free. Rejoice.
“The Silence of the Girls” by Pat Barker
I found this quite interesting as my classical education ended at 15 and a lot of the Trojan war is Greek to me. Sorry.
“Paradise Lodge” by Nina Stibbe
You know, fine, Nina Stibbe can be very funny in places but the narrative as a whole never hangs together particularly well. Amusing and undemanding, you could do a lot worse, I suppose.
“The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
A science fiction offering. I found volume one grand but I have no desire to go on and read volumes 2-5 as my son Michael did with every appearance of enthusiasm.
“Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling” by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
This is a cultural phenomenon in Ireland. It’s about a girl from the country adapting to Dublin and its notions. Very funny in places but occasionally a bit saccharine.
“The Importance of Being Aisling” by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
But look, sure, I came back for book 2.
“Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling” by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
Mr. Waffle bought book 3 on the e-reader. I hate the e-reader. “But”, he said, “it’s great value, as she’d say herself.” There was a bit in it where Aisling waxes lyrical about the value of an IKEA blue bag and I realised that she and Mr. Waffle were soul mates. He loves an IKEA blue bag.
“Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom” by Catriona McPherson
I’m still loving Dandy Gilver. There are 14 of them and I hereby signal that I am going to read them all. I don’t love the detective bit as I find it embarrassingly hard to follow but I love the personalities and the period charm (they’re all set in Scotland in the 20s and 30s).
“Dandy Gilver and a Spot of Toil and Trouble” by Catriona McPherson
What did I tell you? I will be reading them all.
“Dandy Gilver and an unsuitable day for a murder” by Catriona McPherson
“Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses” by Catriona McPherson
Every single one.
“A Step So Grave” by Catriona McPherson
This is a Dandy Gilver mystery although her name does not appear on the cover.
“The Winter Ground” by Catriona McPherson
And so is this.
“The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim
I don’t know that I was enchanted now but I found this story about four women who are thrown together renting a castle in Italy appealing enough in a mild way.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
This is a very famous memoir of a concentration camp survivor writing about his time in the camps. Although he is a pretty positive person, I found it a very grim read.
“Clock Dance” by Anne Tyler
I love Anne Tyler’s writing style and her characters. Plot is always a bit less important and it says a lot for her strengths that I don’t really mind that.
â€œStandard Deviationâ€ by Katherine Heiny
This was very funny in places but sometimes it felt like a range of gags in search of a plot. I though it was grand but I have to say that Mr. Waffle really enjoyed it.
“The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett
This is a lovely book. It’s about a brother and sister and their relationship and the house they grew up in. I would really recommend it.
“The Great Hunger” by Cecil Woodham Smith
This is a classic book and although, I gather, scholarship has moved on in some ways, still a very comprehensive and readable summary of the famine and what happened to people during and after.
The Only Throw Away Generation
I have covered before how I am essentially regarded as some kind of weird changeling in my family as I am pretty tidy and my parents and siblings are less so. A key component of being tidy is getting rid of things – throwing them out, giving them away, eating them, if necessary. Apparently my father’s mother was pretty tidy and it is a source of lasting bitterness that she gave away some of his toys before he was quite ready to say goodbye (he is 94, I think we can call it lasting at this stage). In Cork, when something can’t be found, even something no sane person would ever throw out, the question is always, “Did Anne throw it out?” like, for example, “Anne, did you throw out a cheque for â‚¬500?” This is an example drawn from life.
My mother used to stymie my attempts to get rid of things and chastise me with the words, “I’m not part of the throw-away generation.” She would then carefully preserve whatever item I had been about to toss carelessly into the bin – a useful box, an exhausted tea towel which could be repurposed for shoe shining, a random screw – and put it away somewhere. She was a big fan of “a place for everything and everything in its place” in theory although the practice was slightly more haphazard.
And now, I find that my children are stopping me from throwing things out. Reduce, reuse, recycle is a household mantra. However worthy, it is quite tiring. Now, when I go to throw things in the bin, my hand is stayed by anxious teenagers who want to know whether it is going in the right bin and indeed whether we can reuse it. Also, Michael, the world’s most sentimental child, has retained all his childhood toys many of which have not been used in years. But given my grandmother’s example, I know that I can never get rid of them.
I suppose it’s only a question of time before I turn into my parents and start stockpiling things in the attic. I was in Cork recently and my father said to me, “Do you remember the stairs to the attic in [the house we moved out of when you were 12]?” I did. “Do you remember the sisal matting that was on the stairs?” More surprisingly, I did. “Well,” said he, “it is stored under the eaves in the attic. ” In response to my raised eyebrow, he added “Perfectly good carpet, it might be useful again someday.” The bane of my life, the potential usefulness of manifestly unuseful objects; proof – it has been sitting up there for nearly forty years. “Anyhow,” I wanted to say to you that your mother and I wrapped many valuables in it when we moved. ” He reminisced, “I think that the solid silver salver that Uncle Jack got when he retired (about 1950 I would guess) is in there.” I took myself to the attic. I found rolled up carpet under the eaves, having fought my way through an extraordinary array of material, and unrolled it gingerly (on top of a hideous coffee table that I recognised from my youth which was a present from my granny but which my mother, I have to say understandably, never liked) in the feeble light of the bare bulb dangling from the ceiling. Nothing. Then I looked left and right and saw that the whole space under the eaves was filled up with rolled up carpets. I know when I am beaten. Uncle Jack’s silver salver and any other treasures will have to wait for the next generation to unearth.