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Your Point?

3 May, 2016 at 5:51 pm by belgianwaffle

A number of people sent me a link to this Kevin Barry piece in Granta about Cork.

It starts out as follows:

If cities are sexed, as Jan Morris believes, then Cork is a male place. Personified further, I would cast him as low-sized, disputatious and stoutly built, a hard-to-knock-over type. He has a haughty demeanour that’s perhaps not entirely earned but he can also, in a kinder light, seem princely. He is certainly melancholic. He is given to surreal flights and to an antic humour and he is blessed with pleasingly musical speech patterns. He is careful with money. He is in most leanings a liberal. He is fairly cool, usually quite relaxed, and head over heels in love with himself.

At the very least, the last of this is true: the city of Cork is besotted with itself, and it talks of little else.

It is a truly brilliant article; especially since the author is only a blow-in.

One of These Excuses is not like the Others

2 May, 2016 at 5:36 pm by belgianwaffle

It was my oldest friend’s birthday on April 20. We thought we might go to lunch on a Saturday to catch up.

From: Me
To: Her
Subject: Happy birthday to you

Alas, I cannot go to lunch on Saturday – I am out on Sunday afternoon and I can’t go out to lunch on Saturday as well. Planning ahead but how about Saturday, May 7?

From: Her
To: Me
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

That’s too bad about Saturday but it was short notice so I knew it was a long shot. As regards 7 May, I will possibly have a Kiwi friend visiting that weekend, I don’t know yet for sure but I will keep you posted.

From: Me
To: Her
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

Will we pencil in May 14 – I know it’s a long way out but still…

From: Her
To: Me
Subject: RE: Happy birthday to you

14 May I am in Ulaan Baator. Yes, really.

I think she has won that email exchange with her fermented mare’s milk. If you care, the 21st isn’t a runner because my niece is making her first communion so we have settled on May 28.

Reading

13 March, 2016 at 7:05 pm by belgianwaffle

“Funny Girl” by Nick Hornby

About a female comedian making it in the 60s. Very readable like all Nick Hornby but a bit forgettable.

“La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert” by Joël Dicker

This is a story about a young author helping to solve a mystery involving an older author. I did not like it. I read it in French but the effect was disorientating as it is set in North America and it felt like I was reading an English book in translation rather than a French original. Only merit as far as I was concerned is that it may have improved my French.

“To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee

I haven’t read this since I was in school but I reread it recently after Harper Lee died. I think it is a much better book than I realised when I read it the first time. Well worth re-reading.

“Futebol” by Alex Bellos

I started reading this when the World Cup was being held in Brazil to get a feel for Brazilian football. It’s a bit out of date and I didn’t enjoy it but over many months made my way slowly but surely to the end. Perhaps more entertaining for those with a greater interest in football.

“Darkmouth” by Shane Hegarty

These are books for children written by an Irish Times columnist I always liked. Daniel absolutely loved them. I read the first two because I was curious. They’re fantasy books where you can get into a parallel world from a North Dublin seaside town (essentially Skerries). Not for me but very acceptable for the young people.

“Lolly Willowes” by Sylvia Townsend Warner

This is a curious book. It’s set in the 1910s. It’s about a woman who never marries and lives happily in the family home with her father until he dies. Then she ends up living with her brother and his family in London and it’s all a bit grim in a reasonably affluent way. That’s about three quarters of the book. Then she ups sticks and goes to become a witch. I thought from reading descriptions it was going to be a hilarious romp but it’s not. On the cover, John Updike is quoted as saying that it is “eerie” and it is. Worth a read though.

“The Shepherd’s Crown” by Terry Pratchett

Sadly, the last Pratchett. And, it pains me to say it, not a particularly good one. It’s alright and it’s quite sad when poor old Granny Weatherwax dies (about page 2, I’m not ruining it for you).

“Career of Evil” Robert Galbraith

Third in this series about a detective and his beautiful sidekick and quite enjoyable. As good as the first and better than the second in the series. I will certainly read number 4 when it comes out.

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

This is a clever novel about all the gods from the old world who find themselves in America where people don’t believe in them much anymore and the new American gods (reality TV, money, whatever you’re having yourself). A bit too long (part of the problem may have been that I had the “author’s preferred text”) but clever and worth a read.

“City of Bohane” by Kevin Barry

This book is superbly written. The language is fascinating and brilliant. However, the plot leaves a great deal to be desired. It’s set in a parallel, terrifying Ireland in a city in the west. Notwithstanding the flaws in plot (i.e. hardly any) I would definitely read another book of his.

“Stones of Dublin”
by Lisa Marie Griffith

I won this book by filling out a form at a book fair. Very thrilling – it arrived out of the blue in the post. I really enjoyed it. I find generally that books of Dublin history are pitched at the wrong level for me, either much too general containing information I largely already know, or far too specific containing information I’m not sure I really want to know (you know the kind of thing – a detailed history of the lives of the inhabitants of numbers 73-75 Ranelagh Road between 1900 and 1911). For me, this book hit the rather large middle ground between these two extremes perfectly. A good history of Dublin and well worth a read.

“Disclaimer” by Renee Knight

This is a thriller with a twist. I don’t normally like this kind of thing and I didn’t like this. I thought the whole premise was utterly ludicrous and couldn’t get over that.

“Tea with Mr Rochester” by Frances Towers

These are lovely short stories about slightly neglected women. It made me remember how much I enjoy a good short story yet, I so rarely look to take them out of the library or buy them. I’m not quite sure why novels hold me so much in thrall when there are such wonderful collections of short stories out there including this one.

“The Priory” by Dorothy Whipple

This is an epic tale of what we in Ireland would call a “big house” family. It covers the lives and loves of all the members of the household upstairs and downstairs and I really enjoyed it although (spoiler alert) my heart sank when the housemaid who got herself into trouble tried to drown herself. Things more or less work out for the upstairs denizens but things downstairs are a bit grim.

“A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)” by George R. R. Martin

I can’t believe that I have started reading this series. I felt that “Game of Thrones” had captured the attention of the world and I knew nothing about it so I might as well try one of the books. 800 or so pages later, I’m not sure that I entirely see the attraction. It was fine. I will probably read the other volumes but I wouldn’t be entranced, now. The pedant in me did not like that on page 1, the author used “disinterested” when he meant “uninterested” or “indifferent”.

Maybe I need to watch the TV series to understand the attraction? Mr. Waffle is strongly against this, if this means he has to watch it too.

Somewhat reading related; did everyone in the world know this extraordinarily clever guessing game thing, Akinator? It’s amazing although very weak on Georgette Heyer heroines, I note.

Enterprising Free Range Child

12 March, 2016 at 10:41 pm by belgianwaffle

Email from a friend:

From: Him
To: Me
Subject: RE: Guess

What our [youngest child] did on Friday?

Went on the mitch all day.

Herself and a mate took themselves off to the playground, shopping centre, McDonald’s. Even brought a change of clothes!

Turned nine last week. She fessed up this morning. Panicked about not having a note [for school].

Books of the Year 2015

29 January, 2016 at 6:25 pm by belgianwaffle

It’s still time for round-ups; 2015 was not a fantastic year for me on the reading front but I did read some books I really enjoyed. Here are my top five with my review at the time and any comment in italics:

“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson

I think Kate Atkinson is a wonderful writer. This book is superb. The ending is really clever and stays with you. Slightly too much information about flying planes in the war for me, but that is a minor quibble.

“Faithful Place” by Tana French

I read four Tana French novels last year and they were all superb. I would read any of her books and, alas, I have read all of her published novels to date. They were all equally good, really but I just picked this one as representative as I came across it first when searching the archive.

Tana French writes detective stories which are not normally my cup of tea but I love the way she writes and I find the plots really clever also. This one is about a detective from the wrong side of the tracks whose past comes back to haunt him.

“Sisterhood” by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is very good. Not a lot of plot but the writing and characters are brilliant enough to get you over that. And even though it features psychic twins it is not at all clichéd. Truly.

“We are all Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler

Nicely written with clever interesting ideas. Better if you don’t know the twist, which I didn’t.

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

This is a bit depressing, if you have elderly or sick relatives. Atul Gawande is a doctor who thinks a lot. He is very interesting and always writes beautifully. Bits of this book originally appeared elsewhere and it doesn’t hang together as well as it might but overall it is very good.

Little Disagreement

1 December, 2015 at 8:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Last night the Princess asked me whether I was a Jo and Laurie person or an Amy and Laurie person. If you have not read “Little Women“, you may move on now. Anyhow, I said that I was a Jo and Laurie person, like everybody except, perhaps, Louisa May Alcott. Of course, the Princess is an Amy and Laurie person. Internet, might I ask you, what kind of person are you?

Can I tell you that you are on your first warning having given the WRONG answer on the piano question.

Last Sunday of the Liturgical Year

22 November, 2015 at 5:00 pm by belgianwaffle

I woke up this morning feeling miserable. I felt progressively worse as I had my shower and ate a solitary slice of toast for breakfast. I crawled back into bed at 10.15 with a hot water bottle and wet hair (too ill to dry with hair dryer, yes, I know what you’re thinking) only briefly rising again to stand over the toilet feeling like I was going to be sick. I was convinced that I had flu. I’ve had it once before and I was very afraid.

I woke up again at 2.30 feeling largely fine. A bit of a headache and haven’t had anything to eat yet but I am dressed and walking around and my legs no longer feel wobbly. A mystery. My hair leaves a bit to be desired though.

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Anyhow, as well as being the last Sunday of the liturgical year it is also what our Church of Ireland friends call Stir Up Sunday, (who knew that this was going to be an ecumenical post?). Showing positively Protestant levels of organisation, I had left lots of fruit soaking last night in stout and brandy. I went and bought new pudding bowls yesterday as, by some bizarre process they always disappear from one year to the next (or, at the very least, the lids do). I was therefore, this afternoon able to tip in the remaining ingredients all of which I had acquired earlier (chopped hazelnuts – yes, ground almonds – yes, chopped walnuts – yes etc). I was totally on a roll and filled with smugness until I got to juice and rind of an orange. I mean, really, we always have oranges, there was no need to get them in. But, oh no, not today. The Princess and I went out to the corner shop and as far as she is concerned, it was a total win as she got chocolate to melt for her chocolate moustache mould (every house should have one).

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So my plum puddings are made and now all that remains to do is steam them for a fortnight. This is hard won experience over my five year plum pudding making period; there was a time when I thought two and a half hours would do it. Hah. I am genuinely expecting to be steaming these puddings all evening for at least a week.

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