Of Margaret Atwood, the Arts, and Why Both are Vital

Margaret Atwood is often described as a difficult interviewee; an intimidating writer of great intellect who can be openly disdainful of a luckless interviewer. She doesn’t play the game, the game that most play when invited onto chat shows or whatever when they have something to promote. I can only think she likes Alan Yentob. He evidently likes her. The result was a fabulous interview broadcast on Monday night but only watched by me this evening.

I’m not sure how I came across Atwood. I know it was in the 80s, and it wasn’t because of The Handmaid’s Tale, though I read that later. I think it was probably that she was published by Virago. Feminism and feminist literature were (and still are) very important to me for a mixture of reasons, one of which being a relationship that fortunately ended with a man with whom I am now mystified why I spent more than five minutes. Make that seconds. Or nano-seconds. So authors published by Virago, or the Woman’s Press – motto: Steaming ahead! complete with a sketch of a steam iron – had a particular attraction. Continue reading

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Where I am Now

I am sitting with my feet up having a pre dinner lager. MasterB is having some zzzs. We are at das Boot. How often do I start a post saying where I am I wonder. Quite often I think, and that's quite in the British sense rather than the US sense, so if you are from across the pond, read it as fairly often.

It's a warm evening, I have the windows open. Birds are singing. Someone is speaking quite loudly and his voice carries across the still water. There is virtually no wind. When we arrived md-afternoon after a chat with Janet Eggs a mile or so short of the marina, the place was full of cars, and people were walking up and down. MasterB meowed and I left him in the car with the doors and windows open, but confined to his cat basket while I removed boat covers, turned on electrics and started the engine.

I let him out of his basket then. The people had dispersed. After sitting in the well in front of the car seat while I lifted bags out of the boot, he climbed out onto the grass. Then he had little sniff around, and made towards where I had my stuff piled into the the little trolley. I thought we were about to both move to das Boot, but suddenly someone appeared and MasterB retreated under the car, out of my reach. I kept ferrying stuff to the boat, returning to sit cross legged on the grass near the car and trying to encourage him out. It looked as though he was ready for a long stay.

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Of Trains, Boats, Brexit, Bombing and Neanderthal Attitudes

My short ride to the mainline station turned into a slow crawl across the capital. In theory, taking a train should have meant a fourteen minute journey that circumvented the clogged roads at rush hour. The driver kept as informed with a practised and resigned calm; red lights delaying our arrival at Blackfriars; a train ahead with technical problems preventing us from reaching Farringdon. I had expected to have time to kill at King’s Cross, maybe buy a coffee, admire the roof for the nth time. Instead I raced over the road from St Pancras International, found my train on the departure board, wove through the crowds and made it with just two minutes to spare.

Older Nephew is meeting me I hope at Cambridge station. We’re off to winterise das Boot, which means going to the pump out at Ely and probably lunching in a pub there, returning to the marina, emptying the water tank and adding anti-freeze to the engine. I’m hoping it’s more relaxing than the first part of the journey.

We shall doubtless talk Brexit and Trump. Now, most of you will be aware that there was a referendum in June over whether to stay in or leave the EU. I, like 48% of those who voted, wanted to remain. The question was a simple stay or leave. But somehow the government led by the redoubtable Theresa May, has decided that parliament should have no say in the niceties of how we leave the EU, what our leavetaking should be. No, she says, there will not be a discussion along the way, The Country Has Spoken and we must respect that decision. OK, fair enough, it was a slender majority, but it was a majority and much as I should prefer to remain an EU citizen to the end of my days, I reluctantly accept that is not to be. But people did not vote on immigration. Or if they did, they were answering a different question to the one asked. They did not vote on remaining in or out if the single market; on freedom of movement or pan-European health care. Some people will have voted so the 350 million pounds claimed by the leave campaign could go to our beleaguered and beloved NHS. Funny how that money does not seem to play any part in the post Brexit world. Instead leading Conservatives are talking about stopping foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs. The proposal by Amber Rudd that businesses should report on how many foreign passport holders work for them was roundly denounced and dropped amid assurances that we had misunderstood. The fact that this was background to my reading of The Hare With Amber Eyes made it all the more sinister for me. If you don’t know the book I urge you to read it. Aunt Nessa, who died nearly two years ago, sent it to me and it has sat on my shelves until now, a little bit of unsuspected golden treasure. It’s a memoir by Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist based in London. He is descended from a banking family. A Jewish banking family. The hare in the title is a netsuke, one of a collection made by his ancestor Charles Ephrussi in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

An Urge to Post

I had no intention of blogging tonight. I should be on my way to bed, it’s an early start tomorrow. But I read Outward Hounds latest and it reminded me of why I have stuck this blogging mularky for so long. There are bloggers out there whose writing is sublime. Their pages may not garner as many hits, likes or comments as others, but bloody hell, it’s amazing to be able freely to read their output.

I love the way that the internet has put me in touch with people from the other side of the world, people who I shall probably never meet, never have a conversation with other than via the keyboard, yet with whom there is a connection. Thank-you Tim Berners-Lee. Continue reading

A Good Literary Haul for September

I am halfway through the book group novel for next week. Or it may be the week after. Anyway. It's The Queen of The Tambourine by Jane Gardam. I love Jane Gardam's writing and I have read loads by her, including, I thought, this novel which I thought I had on my bookshelves. I didn't, so I bought a second hand copy which fortunately arrived minutes before I left the. Smoke for das Boot yesterday.

I started it today, and from page one realised I had not read it before. I began by being amused by the Hyacinth Bouquetish character of Eliza. Then that palled, but before I could think I might give up the novel stepped up a gear. Unobtrusively. Jane Gardam is the most understated of writers. Don't expect big scenes; crash bang wallop chapters; shock horror revelations. It's the detail that matters in her books; the tiny shifts in behaviour, attitudes and thinking. Nothing and everything happens. She is not for the skim reader.

I'm loving it. And it was a tough gif after The Tidal Zone which introduced me to Sarah Moss. I think she has written about five novels so far. So I have been a bit slow on the uptake. I blame the library service. If you know me and my hobby horses, this will not come as a surprise.

Time was I'd go to our local library, small but with an admirable stock of books. I'd prowl the shelves and come home with a haul of novels by people of whom I had never heard. My horizons were widened. Then someone in some library service somewhere decreed that libraries should stock best selling novels by best selling authors and any book not borrowed n a six month period should be cast into outer darkness. So suddenly we found ourselves with libraries that stocked the same books as our supermarkets. Writers who I had discovered before the six month rule disappeared from the shelves. I am grateful that my reading was widened by earlier more enlightened library administrators, but it's a bugger these days. Continue reading

Wednesday Postscript

I don’t mean to rub it in but I shall be afloat again tomorrow. If it helps, I can go because I do not have any work, and work equals income, until Monday.

Not my boat

Not my boat


I didn’t mean to post twice tonight, but MasterB is outside, I have finished The Tidal Zone, and I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to clear some space in my laptop’s memory. I’m hoping the next book group book will be delivered before I leave. It’s Jane Gardam’s The Queen of the Tambourine which I thought I had, but if I do it’s buried deep in the bookshelves. The library doesn’t have it, so I ordered a second hand copy from AbeBooks. My idea is to sit on das Boot and read it.

Night is falling earlier. It’s an unwelcome reminder that bare-toed days are numbered. We are two months past the longest day so just four months off the longest night. Grabbing time at das Boot before the temperatures drop is a priority. I shan’t venture far; some short walks locally, maybe drive to Reach and the organic farm.

local landscape

local landscape


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Saturday

Before I left for work this morning I emptied, cleaned and replenished the litter tray twice. MasterB had had a pee sometime in the night, so I bagged that up before breakfast, washed my hands and made my coffee and toast.

While I showered, MasterB joined me in the bathroom and evacuated his bowels. I opened the window wider and wondered if this was an experience familiar to Mark Twain, Albert Camus or other famous cat lovers. I don’t recall any scenes in L’√Čtranger where the protagonist interrupts his introspection to bag up cat poo.

There are moments when I feel my life lacks glamour.

I also wrote a little list for myself, cryptic reminders for things I want to get done over the next few days; bathroom shelf, bolt, catfood – sachets and biscuits, invoice TG, bottles and jars, bolt and drill. I examined the tomatoes but didn’t photograph them. That had to wait until this evening.

They are doing well, and the flowers give promise of more to come. One of the coantiners has four plants supported by a wigwam of canes. This was working well until I went to Ireland. I suspect underwatering dried out the compost and the cans became wobbly. Now the tomato plants show a distressing tendancy to fall over at any provocation. I have just rescued an orphaned green tomato untimely ripped from its moorings by one of these falls.

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A Walk and Two Libraries

The rain is being thrown against the windows tonight, but this morning was glorious, and a windy day meant even the heaviest washing on the line dried thoroughly.

Celia and I set off from the Elysian fields of sunny Walworth to visit the not so deep south where Denmark Hill meets Herne Hill. There are roads leading off the main road that we only ever seem to see from the bus. Time for some initial explorations. En route we passed the site of a newly demolished house. It reminded us of bombsites. This fireplace was presumably blocked up and the grate left undisturbed for decades until the house was pulled down. It looks like the sticks that had been placed in it for a fire that was never lit were also immured. My guess is it will end up in an antique shop somewhere and fetch a tidy sum.

Fireplace

Fireplace

It would be ironic if the purchaser were one of those incomers who have just realised that south east London’s grittiness suddenly flavour of the month.

Gentrification

Gentrification

I needed the loo, so we diverted to the newest local library. My preoccupation with my bladder may explain why I didn’t photograph the exterior. There are some historic items in the foyer, including this one celebrating the number of local men who signed up to fight in the First world war. It was hours later before I thought to wonder if my great uncles were among them.

 Recruitment


Recruitment

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

An appropriate challenge, as I have been a little time away from my page, busy with funeral arrangements and other responsibilities.
This picture is at Waterloo Station in London this afternoon. I have long admired the clock and have several photos of it. Railway stations with their departure boards and trains arriving and leaving are places where people are very conscious of the time. In the bookshop the book cited in this challenge was being promoted. Continue reading

A Visit to the Dentist

Given the main purpose of the journey was see the dentist, you might not think it was that good a day.

Wrong.

Celia had said she’d come to Guildford with me. I only learned later that her main experience of it prior to yesterday had been the one way system, a system which has probably caused more mental anguish and geographical confusion than is fair.

It’s a quick journey from Waterloo, and soon we were walking through the town. For those of you unfamiliar with Guildford, hills feature quite strongly. The railway station is at the bottom of the town, near the river, and my dentist is at the top, not far from a rather lovely sculpture recalling the Olympic Torch Relay.

Olympic torch relay sculpture

Olympic torch relay sculpture

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