Wonderful Words

Some great reading this week. At the weekend I finished Penelope Lively’s Ammonites and Leaping Fish, A Life in Time. It’s a memoir, but being Penelope Lively she bypasses all the clichés. It’s a social history as well as her history; beautifully written which is a given with her as an author, and absorbing. It’s perceptive, observant, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. There is a little impatience with the ageing process but never self-pity. The only time Penelope Lively has disappointed me was Spiderweb, which I think was written not long after her husband Jack’s death, so might be forgiven as a potboiler.

I won’t go into all the structure of Ammonites and Leaping Fish. There are lots of reviews you could read. I rather like this one. But this is how the book begins:

This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age. And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here.

I borrowed my copy from the library, but there is so much in it that I want to return to it will soon be on my shelves. Continue reading


Of Newspapers, MasterB, Cat and Trevor, and Introducing Ditto

Chez IsobelandCat we find ourselves with a wealth of newsprint this week. Normally, I restrict myself to one paper at the weekend, and gradually read all the different sections during the week. On Friday, however, I bought a paper. I bought another on Saturday. The next day, I picked up a free copy of the Independent on Sunday. Add to that the five copies of the Metro I nabbed and the several copies of something in the Cyrillic alphabet my neighbour kindly brought home for me last night, and you start to get the picture.
Are you thinking “Wow, she reads Russian”? Or “Blimey she reads the Metro”? Admittedly the two feel like opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. I read neither. No, sometimes I read the Metro and then do the Sudoku puzzle. These papers are small, tabloid sized – as indeed is the IoS, not to be confused with IDS, no, no that would never do – and my newspapers of choice for lining MasterB’s indoor facility. A facility I am glad to relate he has scarcely used since the departure of Trevor. I was getting through a serious quantity of cat litter. Cat’s ashes must have been spinning in the airing cupboard. A year or longer could pass without him using the litter tray. He believed the place for toileting was the garden. He also believed a day without a fight was a day wasted, so poor Trevor would have had a sorry time if he had tried to take up residence during Cat’s reign.



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In Praise of The Grauniad

There are lots of good reasons for reading The Guardian newspaper. The typos are legendary, earning it the nickname of The Grauniad, and I was quite disappointed not to bag any in yesterday’s edition. Still, I have the notice I read in an estate agent’s window in Castlewellan advertising a property for sale with ‘oil fried central heating’ to keep me going.
It’s a serious paper with a light touch, and today I snorted and chortled through the bits of yesterday’s news I hadn’t got around to by bedtime last night. If you had told me at breakfast that a story about debt collectors would have made me smile, I’d have shaken my head, but this firm is far away from the heavies with baseball bats intimidating people who have nothing and no means of repayment. I like their style. Click here and see for yourself.
I don’t know if Simon Hoggart is on twitter, but he sounds as though he’d love hashtagging. Here are some ideas from his readers for place names in songs: I’m in the Mood for Danzig, Sexual Ealing, Clissold Park of Mine. I love Simon Hoggart and hope he goes on writing into his nineties. Like some other good people he has appeared on, and also for a while chaired, The News Quiz. Sandi Toksvig, the current chair, was telling a story about the late Alan Coren, one time editor of Punch and a News Quiz regular. For his birthday she paid for him to have golf lessons. The gift wasn’t a success. “Those bunkers,” he said, “no wonder Hitler died in one.” Continue reading