Saturday, 7 September 2019

Last Supper - Just a Bowl of Cherries

I read an interesting and evocative column by food critic Jay Rayner, about Last Suppers. Not only his idea of what he would really want for his own last supper, but the concept of last suppers. He was most concerned to be in good company, during his final meal. 

And he's right, it should be about who you are with as much as the food. 

I'd be with the family, all of them, from parents and husbands to adopted sisters and step-second-cousins-once-removed, all gathered together at the same time, in the same place, for once. Adults nattering and drinking and catching up because some of them haven't seen each other for years. Teenagers sharing selfies and apps, children racing around the tables with cousins they hardly ever see, babe's being nursed, or bottle fed or whatever comes naturally. 

Everyone could have whatever they wanted to eat and drink, from a gigantic buffet satisfying everyone from carnivores, vegetarians, pescetarians, fruitarians and vegans to insectivores, if there are any! There can be wine, beer, spirits, juices, tea, coffee and even those vile branded colas whose name I refuse to mention, for the kids.

I'd eat a perfectly cooked baked potato, made with a large desiree spud, with crispy, very slightly charred skin and soft but not mushy interior, split open and filled with a mound of butter, a large wedge of ripe brie and sprinkled with salt, black pepper and fresh grated nutmeg. There'd be a side salad of fresh watercress.  I'd follow it with the world's best, most chocolatey chocolate mouse and a huge bowl of ripe, dark cherries. Everything washed down with a bottle or two of Farnese Montipulciano D'Abruzzo.

Hmm. Think I'll start now, by sending the invitations. If I don't die, we can all do it again next year!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub by Virginia Ironside - Book review

's review on Goodreads 

liked it

I picked this up because I've always quite admired Virginia Ironside as a right-on journalist and agony aunt. The story is okay for what it is, but I was hoping for something a bit stronger or at least a little funnier, from this writer.

Plenty of it is good. Marie Sharp is defiant of the stereotypes and expectations of a woman of a certain age, i.e. sixty. She lists them with contempt and vows to definitely grow old disgracefully. She will remain single but will not become a little old lady. She will wear purple, demand attention and express her opinion at every juncture.

She will also dote on her grandson and give up sex.

Her description of the illness and death of a close friend is unflinching and moving, I felt for all of them. This was for me the most powerful part of the story, her friendship slowly bleeding away.

Where the story fell down was the always implied idea that she will not actually remain single and she will not give up sex. So at the end we come back to the ordinary story of a woman who can't be complete without a man, yet again. I was so hoping for a more interesting ending, but it became just another romance. I was afraid it would.

Monday, 1 July 2019

King Crow by Michael Stewart - book review

I started reading this in 2012, I had a signed copy because I've met the author, but I never wrote a review because I never finished reading it. Annoyingly, I left it on a train...

Eventually I bought another copy. This time I read most of it on another train.... the journey went very fast, as did 16 year-old Paul Cooper's journey in the story. It mostly takes place over a few short days and is gripping.

Paul is naively obsessed with birds, his favourite bird changes but is currently the raven, he's a bit of a twitcher and has his lists, but he's much more imaginative than most.  He has just started at a new school, because his mum has decided they need to move house, again.  There are always problems starting at a new school, exacerbated when you are sixteen.  But soon there's a school trip, to the Tower of London, where there are ravens. I won't tell more of the story than this, no spoilers, read the book.

The narrative is in Paul's point of view and very much inside his head. It's an interesting kind of coming of age story, with action, birds, murder, birds, car chases, birds, drugs and girls, well a girl and more birds. 

Ok, I will say a bit more about the birds.  I like birds.  I'm a bit of a birder myself, but I just think that in this particular story there are too many throw-away birds.  Concentrating on fewer species maybe would have been more engrossing for me, each new species mentioned was a distraction.  And fewer species of bird would certainly be less confusing for any reader who doesn't know her jackdaw from her jackass. 

But confusion is part of the plot, so hey-ho!

King Crow is a damn good read, read it!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Professor Branestawm.

Am I stingy towards other writers?
On I've listed a total of 255 books which I've read, yet I've only given a five star score to 32 of them. The first two of those went to Rudyard Kipling, who died in 1936.

And the third was to the book that made me laugh more than anything I've ever read since. Norman Hunter's "The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm."
With brilliant illustrations by Heath Robinson.

Monday, 6 May 2019

All the Dark Air by Livi Michael - book review

Can't understand why this book has no reviews on Goodreads. It's a very good story, moving if troubling. I picked it up to read on a long train journey, 5 hours and three changes later I arrived somewhat dazed by the emotion of the story.

All characters are strongly drawn and feel very real especially the lonely and uncared for Julie, whose story it is. She loves Michael, or maybe when she began to love him, at school, she was in love with the idea of loving Michael and never managed to shake it off. Whether Michael loves her is another question. She lives with him and his uncle Si and Michael's best mate Darren.

Most of the story takes place during Julie's prolonged pregnancy, which isn't truly prolonged but feels that way to Julie and to the reader. Occasionally the POV seems to slip, but mostly it is Julie's. Her journey ends with a party to celebrate a death that hasn't happened yet, then with her in the hospital for a birth that hasn't happened yet. I understand why the ending comes there, though it seems abrupt.

The author is compassionate to all her characters, even the absurd ones, even the violent ones, whilst being unsentimental describing their flaws. She's non judgemental, just shows the traumas of lives and how people have to manage to get on with things in their own way, alone. It's a sad story, left me wondering how the characters fared afterwards. That's how real it feels.

Garage Sale

7 garages in Fulham, London were sold for £700,000.

In view of that fact, my garage is also for sale.
It can be yours for a mere £100,000.

This period property has brick walls, 
an almost leak free tiled roof, azure
painted double doors and an enormous clematis,
which climbs over the roof and enters under the tiles, 
fills the loft space and encourages 
huge spiders and other sustainable wildlife.
Pith helmet and machete not supplied.

Sale does include:- 
a 37 year old road bike (tyres shot), 
17 loudspeakers of varying vintages, 
11 bits of carpet - random colours, 
3 lino off-cuts - fake tile effect, 
1 rusty wheelbarrow, 
2 tea-chests full of old paperbacks 
which never quite got unpacked when we moved in, 
113 random bits of timber that might be useful, 
2 broken bookcases - hence the books in tea-chests,
370 black plastic flowerpots, various sizes, snails included, 
1 box full of cables and other useful bits of vintage wire - needs unravelling, 
13 cans of nearly finished paint, in 1980's hues,
1 boot-mounted bike rack that fits neither the boot nor the bicycle 
2,174 other equally fascinating and potentially invaluable objects. 

Not to mention a squirrel's nest - the squirrel would prefer to remain anonymous -
so I haven't mentioned him. Shhh!
I must add,  you can't drive into the garage 
because a wall has been built at the wrong angle 
blocking one door and a neighbour parks his Mini
far too close to the other door. 
… Also, the garage is not in Fulham.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Psephologist - Word of the Day.

The Greek word psephos means pebble. So maybe I'm a psephologist, I spend time every week on pebbly beaches. But no. The relavent pebbles were used by the world's first democracy as ballots.
So, a Psephologist, in case you don't know (I certainly didn't ) is someone who specialises in using history and scientific analysis to examine election results. Good luck with making sense of Yesterday's local election!results. Whatever people felt like stuffing into the ballot boxes, it wasn't just pebbles.

Enough pebbles for a landslide...