Saturday, 28 March 2015

Unsuitable Authors beginning with P - Terry Pratchett's 'Witches Abroad'.

The witches, Esme Weatherwax, Gytha Ogg and Magrat Garlik, were the first Discworld triple act created by Terry Pratchett. Witches have to come in threes. They are powerful women who know that actual magic should be used sparingly and mostly they don't need it. Granny Weatherwax can control most situations with a look, Nanny Ogg controls with tea and blackmail and Ms Garlik does her best with herbs or crystals or whatever is the latest craze.

In 'Witches Abroad' they have to leave their comfortable(ish) homes in rural Lancre and travel abroad to sort out a fellow witch who has an urge to bring order to the city of Genua by imposing the predictability of fairy-tales on the unsuspecting populace - Emberella has to marry the prince, even though he's a spoilt, snivelling runt. Abroad is not a place that Granny Weatherwax approves of, but "Wisdom is one of the few things that looks bigger the further away it is." So they have to get close to see the detail, not just the mass, and find out what's actually going on.

The witches are amongst my favourite of Pratchett's creations. He enthusiastically wrote any number of great female characters into the Discworld, they were merely the first. He takes stereotypes, defys and builds on them to create full-blooded, comic characters. Needless to say the book is very funny and the dialogue between the witches is the basis of much of the humour.
My copy of this book is the Corgi edition of 1992, which was when I first read it, and has the original Josh Kirby cover. The later editions look very dull by comparison.
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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Unsuitable Authors beginning with E; Ben Elton - 'High Society'

Ben Elton does write well, although his novels can seem similar to his stand up performances in that he is an excellent ranter in both contexts. And my spellchecker doesn't like the word 'ranter' - good! Spellcheckers need to be dully conventional, staid even. Novelists mustn't be staid and that's certainly not a term applicable to Ben Elton.

High Society was published in 2002
This is Ben Elton's novel about the illegal drugs trade and how to defeat it. The story is hardly staid, it has some graphic detail, some very graphic language and some excellent rants, once you get used to the idea that this is how the book is written.

High Society charts the course of a backbench MP who wants to take on and destroy the illegal drugs traders by making all drugs legal. It illustrates the problems created by drugs with the stories of two addicts, contrasting the lives of a successful pop star and a young runaway. Needless to say, nearly everything which can go wrong for every single character does go wrong and the author's central stand of the novel, the drugs bill, fails disastrously, but there is an almost happy ending, for a couple of people.

Ben Elton has been sneered at lately, as a former alternative comedian who has sold out, but High Society shows that, in 2002 at least, his ideas were as radical as ever.

In case you're wondering why he is 'Unsuitable,' my benchmark is what my grandmother would have considered unsuitable. It's not my judgement.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Would you buy this house?

House for Sale in the lovely Grimescar Valley, only 10 minutes from Huddersfield town centre and 6 minutes from the M62, junction 25 - hence twenty minutes to Bradford, forty-five into Leeds, an hour to Manchester. Also 12 minutes from Brighouse, where you can catch a direct train to London. So, the location is very convenient, which is why we came to live here. It's also only 4 minutes from the most wonderful bluebell woods.

The practicalities - four bedroom family home with a garage, on a corner plot, in a quiet cul-de-sac, built around 1980 by a Mr Barrett.  Full central heading, Bosch boiler 6 years old, regularly serviced. Cavity wall insulation and full depth loft insulation, some windows double glazed.

At the front of the house is a triangular lawn and a shared drive with parking for up to 4 cars on our side. The garage is attached to the neighbours' - this is what estate agents call 'link-detached.' No more estate agent speak, I promise. Through our red front door the small, white-painted entrance hall has a full height mirror and  hanging for coats and hats, staircase going up and doors into sitting room and dining room.

The sitting room runs right through, with good-sized windows at either end. The room has a light hessian colour carpet, white walls, soft brown curtains, wooden Venetian blinds to box window at the front and fabric blind to double glazed, hardwood rear window. There is a shallow flue suitable for a feature gas fire.

The dining room has a pine floor, walls painted in Tuscan hues, with Venetian blinds and ochre curtains at the window and double doors which fold back leading into the kitchen. Under-stairs storage.

Kitchen has a full range of beech units with doors, many drawers and work-surfaces all in beech, higher cupboards have glass/beech doors. Stainless 1 1/2 bowl sink, 5 burner gas hob, built in electric oven, tall family-size fridge freezer, Moon washing machine, plumbing & space for a full size dishwasher.

From the hall, stripped, varnished wooden stairs lead up to the landing with loft hatch (the loft is partly boarded and houses the TV arial) and doors into bedrooms and the family bathroom, which has a white bath, basin & WC with a new electric shower over the bath, a large mirrored cabinet, shaver light and a blind to the obscured glass window.

There are two large double bedrooms (one with airing cupboard), one small double-bed room and one single which is still big enough for bunk beds or a cabin bed. All rooms have curtains or blinds and plain, neutral d├ęcor and all except the smaller double have stripped floorboards - ideal for asthma sufferers.

Back on the ground floor, the rear lobby leads to the downstairs WC and to the back door. Behind the house, accessed from the back door and a side gate, is our mature and quite secluded garden with a lawn, a rustic patio, hedges and fruit trees. There's a water butt, outside tap, rear door into the garage and space for a shed or a greenhouse. There's room for kids to rush around or breed guinea pigs (or both!) and the side wall is an excellent site for a basketball hoop.

Our garden backs onto woodland, fields and streams and is only 50 yards from the Kirklees way, great for walkers and dog owners. Also great for bird lovers, more than 40 species have been spotted in or from the garden and regular garden visitors include nuthatch, goldfinch and redpoll.