I have started to fall asleep in front of the television in the evening after the children go to bed. Really, is that not the ultimate sign of passing the gateway through to late middle age. Sigh.
I was listening to the podcast of “In Our Time” and they were doing Persepolis. It was really interesting. Though, seriously, how is Persepolis in our time?
I’m reminded of how years ago I was at a pub quiz and the room was there was a group of school inspectors at the next table they left early and my friend said, “They must’ve heard that there was a good play on the radio”. Oh how we laughed. The boot is on the other foot now, of course as I constantly bore my family witless about podcasts I am listening to. I read during the week that Irish people are among the world’s most enthusiastic podcast listeners, so I am clearly aligned to my fellow citizens.
I learnt about Darius and apparently it’s not pronounced like you might think. I was so interested in Darius and Persepolis that I went all out and had a look on the internet for more information. The first search return was the Darius takeaway. How the mighty have fallen.
Before this I knew nothing about Persepolis. I had read the book by Marjane Satrapi and that was pretty much it. My father is fond of saying “Is it not passing brave to be a king/ and ride in triumph through Persepolis.”* Turns out that it definitely is.
*The internet tells me that this is from “Tamburlaine” by Christopher Marlowe. What exactly was the curriculum they were drawing on when teaching Cork schoolboys in the 30s?
My religious friend is very associated with the Carmelites, maybe he’s even a lay Carmelite, if there is such a thing (I could google it but I know he will tell me whether I do or not so I am saving energy here) anyhow, he’s very pally with a lot of Carmelites and he heard this great story from a Carmelite nun.
So anyway a Carmelite priest was saying mass for this bunch of Carmelite nuns including this lady in the Carmelite convent. For reasons which are unclear he began to talk about Elizabeth I in his sermon. He got very worked up about her many sins against Ireland and, as his indignation mounted, he said, “Virgin Queen, Virgin Queen? She was no more a virgin than you or I.”
I was out of school 30 years last summer. Mr. Waffle went to a school dinner earlier in the year and it brought this significant milestone to mind. I thought I would record what I have learnt since leaving school.
1986 – After a certain number of exams; nobody cares any more (reflection caused by my entire family going off on holidays, leaving me to sit the matric while staying at home alone). How to talk to boys (college was mixed; school was not).
1987 – Just because contact hours in university are few, this does not mean that all of the time not in lectures should be spent off enjoying yourself. How to speak Italian. How to touch type. Some law.
1988 – Au pairing is quite exhausting (good lesson there for later if only I had really taken it to heart). More Italian. Slightly more law.
1989 – Why you should get a professional photo of your graduation. Peak Italian. More law.
1990 – Just because you can’t get a job, another degree is not necessarily the ideal solution to your problems. Peak law.
1991 – How to use a dictaphone. How to discover that being a solicitor is not for you.
1992 – Rudimentary Dublin geography. Little did I know how useful that would prove to me later.
1993 – How to ride a moped in Rome. How to share a house with people from lots of different countries. How to make yeast bread with milk.
1994 – How to party. Peak party year. Basic EU bureaucracy.
1995 – How to speak and write good French. Peak French year.
1996 – How to live on air. How to share a house with a house proud man. How to speak very basic Serbo-Croat.
1997 – How to live by the seaside.
1998 – Advanced EU bureaucracy. How to live alone. How to finally cast aside the shackles of a legal career.
1999 – How to meet a husband.
2000 – How to move country when you have possessions. Challenging. How to set up a book club (still going, thanks for asking).
2001 – The importance of booking a good wedding photographer (learnt the hard way). How to organise a wedding in three months. How to get a diploma in Art History.
2002 – How to pretend to own a house in Ranelagh when, sadly, you do not. How to buy a house.
2003 – That your friends will all get married at the same time. How to have a baby in Belgium. How to mind a baby and travel to two weddings in Italy, two weddings in Ireland and one in France with a small baby in tow. How to blog.
2004 – How to job hunt in Belgium. Peak job-hunting.
2005 – How to have twins.
2006 – How to work full time with three children under 3.
2007 – How to live without sleeping. How to travel to America with three children under 5.
2008 – How to move country with many possessions and 3 children. Challenging.
2009 – How to survive with one new business, one income, a paycut, creche fees and a childminder and also, the collapse of the economy. Challenging. How to own a cat as a grown-up.
2010 – How to garden. How to have 3 children in primary school.
2011 – How to change jobs unexpectedly. How to use a smartphone.
2012 – How to househunt in a depressed market. How to deal with mortgage brokers.
2013 – How to move house in Dublin. Less challenging than changing country. How to pass time in hospital with an elderly relative.
2014 – How to have a child in secondary school.
2015 – That you have drifted apart from many of the people you invited to your wedding but you are still friends with your bookclub.
2016 – How to do a different job. That the only new friends it appears you will ever make are the parents of your children’s friends. That no matter how much you pray for them to be discriminating in that regard, your children will not be swayed by your concerns.
2017 – How to cope with cancer in the family. How to mildly regret that some 20 years previously you cast aside the shackles of a legal career. How to appreciate what you’ve got.
And we have come to the end of another NaBloPoMo. Thank you and goodnight.
We had a good old chat about harassment at my all female bookclub recently. We all brought out the usual horror stories for each other’s delectation – things which would appal us now but which we put up with, almost unthinkingly, when we were in our 20s (although I do remember complaining to my friend D about one particular colleague and her advising me to say, “If you touch me again, you pull back a bloody stump”, so I suppose, I wasn’t quite putting up unthinkingly and, no, I didn’t say anything, just stayed out of his way).
As we moved towards the close of the conversation, I said, “It’s really much better now, I think.” My sapient friend, D (she of the “bloody stump” suggestion), observed, “No, it’s not, it just doesn’t happen to us any more because we’re too old and too senior.” Now that is a depressing thought.
“Catholic Mass For Dummies” by John Trigilio, Kenneth Brighenti, Monsignor James Cafone
I was lent this by a friend. A bit dull but I can tell you it’s a miracle the Orthodox and Syno Malabar rite people manage to keep anyone at all. They require extra hours of devotion.
This is a very popular series of books about a woman who finds herself transported from the 1940s to the 1740s. I thought it was only alright and wouldn’t be rushing back to read the rest of the series. And I quite like time travel but the balance of historical romance to time travel wasn’t quite right for me.
“Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout
A brilliant writer tells a poignant story (more like a series of short stories really) where this difficult woman with a heart of gold (Olive Kitteridge) features. It’s very good at getting inside someone’s head.
“Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan” by Ruth Gilligan
This is a rather gloomy story about Lithuanian Jews who pitched up in Ireland and their lives and a modern day Dublin girl thinking of converting to Judaism for her English Jewish boyfriend. Didn’t really do it for me; too gloomy.
“The Village” by Marghanita Laski
I enjoyed this paean to the socialist utopia set in a village where class structures are crumbling after the end of World War II.
“My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout
Another beautifully written book by Elizabeth Strout.
“Open” by Andre Agassi
God, who knew it was so absolutely grim being a professional tennis player? And does your father have to be insane? Interesting insights here.
“Every Good Deed” by Dorothy Whipple
A book of short stories by the ever-reliable Dorothy Whipple. Great read.
“The Humans” by Matt Haig
I quite enjoyed this book which uses an alien’s perspective to look at human relationships.
“The Possession of Mr Cave” by Matt Haig
I liked “The Humans” so much that I tried more of Mr. Haig. This is, I think, a better book but hair-raising in its description of descent into insanity.
“The Last Family in England” by Matt Haig
A slightly less successful offering by Matt Haig. Maybe better, if you are a big Labrador dog fan.
“The Radleys” by Matt Haig
A family of vampires on the dry- it starts off really well but it spirals out of control a bit at the end.
“Eligible”by Curtis Sittenfeld
A re-imagining of “Pride and Prejudice” by a wonderful contemporary author. One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in ages.
“The Forever Court” by Dave Rudden
I am, as you know, not at all above children’s literature and I really enjoyed part one of this children’s series. For my money, this volume is not quite as good but enjoyable enough all the same and very well written.
“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
A bookseller in Dubray books recommended this for Michael and he absolutely loved it as did Daniel. I didn’t think it was bad but I did not go for it to the same extent as they did. It’s a science fiction novel starring a very tough 6 year old.
“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald
This is a story about a woman training a hawk after her father died. It got amazing reviews and I see how it is a wonderfully written book on the theme of loss but I just didn’t particularly enjoy it. Maybe I needed something cheerier.
“The Luckiest Girl in the School” by Angela Brazil
“The Jolliest School of all” by Angela Brazil
I needed something to read. They were free on the Kindle. I don’t think these school stories have really stood the test of time but maybe it is just too late for me to appreciate them.
“Lola Offline” by Nicola Doherty
Great read for teenagers on the perils of social media and finding new friends, Daniel really enjoyed it and was not at all put off by the pink cover.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay” by J. K. Rowling
A bit meh to be honest but I am now committed to reading all of the Harry Potter related works by Rowling. Why? “I dunno” as Ron Weasley would say.
“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi
This is an absolutely beautiful book written by a brain surgeon who died of cancer in his thirties. Surprisingly uplifting given the theme.
“Le Crime du Comte Neville” by Amélie Nothomb
A recent offering by the extremely prolific Belgian. Extended meditation on the Belgian aristocracy with suicide. More entertaining than it sounds.
“Do No Harm” by Henry Marsh
Series of fascinating almost painfully honest essays by a cranky neurosurgeon. Very enjoyable.
“Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett
A book about the damage authors can do to families and families can do to themselves. I’m a big fan of this kind of family saga and this is very well done.
“The Dry” by Jane Harper
A detective story set in Australia. Very popular, but not for me.
“The Chalk Artist” by Allegra Goodman
Allegra Goodman is a good writer. Her theme here is electronic games are bad and she doesn’t quite carry it off successfully. Only alright, I thought.
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman
This is a book about the mental health impact of abuse. It is a great deal funnier and more positive than that makes it sound but it’s also quite creepy and disturbing. It’s probably a bit more optimistic than the reality. Well worth a read.