Being Mortal

I seem to be spending a lot of my time thinking about death at the moment. It is probably the influence of several things:

Aunt had a suspected heart attack a few weeks ago; Aunt in Belfast died last Monday; there was the walk to remember Mike who died of pncreatic cancer; yesterday was Remembrance Sunday; it would be Mother’s 95th birthday 26th November; after hearing him interviewed by Will Self at Conway Hall last week, I bought a copy of Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Celia rang me as I was hurrying off to work this morning to say Gawande was on Radio 4’s Start the Week. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I have checked that it is available to listen to on the BBC On Demand online. Continue reading


Of the Booker Prize, Betting Shops, and James Naughtie

Where I live there are lots of betting shops. I do mean lots. At least five over a stretch of half a mile or so. Today I wish I knew how to use them. This may seem barely credible, but in all my life I have never placed a bet in a betting shop. I have taken part in sweepstakes at work, spent a happy evening losing five pounds at the greyhound track, bought the odd lottery ticket, numerous raffle tickets, but the world of Paddy Power, William Hill et al is a mystery to me.
But tonight it is the Booker Prize, and I want to put my 50p on Will Self’s Umbrella. It isn’t the book I want to win, that is Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which is sublime, but she has won already with Wolf Hall, and a second win for the second book in her trilogy would be less than likely.
I went to the Royal Festival Hall last night to hear all those short listed read from their books. I learned that I have been pronouncing Mantel’s name wrongly all this time, placing the emphasis on the first and not the second syllable. I also learned that her creation Thomas Cromwell sounds entirely different in her mouth to in my head. Interesting. Continue reading