Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Little Superstars

It's the school holidays again so it's back to work entertaining my boys and preparing for Christmas. I can't really complain as they're lovely children and even though they drive me bonkers a good proportion of the time they also serve me up moments like this one a few weeks ago;


Jacob and Ben pick up awards from former British No 1 tennis player and television presenter Andrew Castle. Jacob: U12 County Champion, U12 South County Champion, U14 South County finalist. Master Ben: South County U10 Champion, County U9 finalist and together ( not fighting for once) South County U13 doubles finalists.

You know, it kinda made me feel proud. Shame about the tie. And the collar. And those ears. Other than that - pretty good!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

There's been so many recordings of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, the song first made famous by the great Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Up until recently my favourite recording of this timeless song was probably the one by the late Eva Cassidy. However, in the last few weeks I've been hearing the version by Hawaiian Israel Kamakawiwo'ole recorded in 1993 and I have to admit it has a certain addictive quality. It's really quite bizarre how all three of these talented performers should have died so comparatively young; Judy was 47, Israel only 38 and Eva just 33. All three singers are so very different but I think all do equal justice to a truly wonderful song. We're lucky they left behind such wonderful legacies.

Enjoy.

Judy Garland




Eva Cassidy




Israel Kamakawiw'ole

Monday, December 13, 2010

Music Monday; In the Bleak Mid-Winter

We are in the middle of a harsh winter here in the UK.  Snow, ice and fog have been plaguing us since mid November and as much as I find the scenery stunningly beautiful it certainly makes driving more hazardous and impacts on daily routines. But as Christmas approaches the weather does seem quite appropriate and it reminds me of my favourite Christmas carol, In the Bleak Mid-Winter.



I was attempting to sing In the Bleak Mid-Winter in the car this afternoon. I say "attempting" because a little voice popped up from the back seat of the car;

"Mummy, will you please stop singing."

However, as I was in full vocal swing and pretending I was on the X Factor, I ignored Master Benedict's pleading.

A few seconds later Master Benedict quipped;

"I wish I could take a gun to my head."

Needless to say, I stopped singing.

Hmm. Master Benedict seems to have inherited my sense of humour and my phraseology. I'm not so sure that's a good thing for a 9 year old -I'm sure he's going to be trouble when he hits his teens!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Absurdity of Life

Life is absurd. It's even more absurd when you think how much time we spend trying to make sense of it. Sometimes things happen that are so bizarre or distressing that the situation becomes almost comical. I reckon if someone recorded the conversations in my house (particularly in my kitchen) people would probably ask which Samuel Beckett play they were listening to.

Mr T: Have you had enough?
Mrs: Yes! Of what?
Mr T: Of this...this...cooking.
Mrs T: I always had. (Pause) Not you then?
Mr T:(gloomily) Then there's no reason for it to change.
Mrs T: It may end. (Pause.) All life long the same cooking, the same recipes.
Master Sam: Why this farce, day after day?
Pause
Master Jacob: I've lost my tooth in the bolognese.
Mrs T: When?
Master Jacob: I had it yesterday.
Mrs T: Ah yesterday! That was when it was fresh.
Master Jacob: I've lost my tooth. And my appetite.
Mrs T: Well I never!
Master Ben: Is my tea ready?
Mrs T: What tea?
Master Ben: The bolognese.
Master Jacob: Look for my tooth. In case she scraped the leftovers back in the pot.
Master Sam; Oh my God. Why this farce day after day?
Mr T: I've had enough. I'm going into the lounge.

Samuel Beckett. What a genius. Master of the Absurd. Have you ever seen his work? Here's a clip from Endgame.



When I was about 17, I directed a production of Endgame. ( I was nuts back then too.) On the last night the lead actor fell ill and I decided, being the true luvvie I was, to step in so we didn't have to cancel. Yes, that's right I played a blind, middle aged man in a wheelchair. Now that is absurd. Seriously absurd. Beckett would probably have loved it! Might even have made a radio show about it called Jane's Last Act.

Unfortunately, I've no pictures to show you of that momentous occasion. In fact, I looked back in my box of photos and there's nothing but the programme. Phew! No one will be able to dredge up a piccy of me looking a complete twat.

So all that remains is to mention Cornish pasties...

Mr T: Is it Cornish pasties tonight? With beans?
Mrs T: With beans? We had that Thursday.
Mr T: On Thursday? Surely not?
Master Sam: Yes. Beans and chips.
Master Jacob: Yes. Chips and beans.
Master Benedict: Yes, Cornish pasties, chips and beans.
Mr T: On no. Not again.
Mrs T: What's the matter?
Pause.
Mr T: It's pasties again.
Mrs T: Never mind.
Mr T: What did you say?
Mrs T. I said Never Mind. The end is near.
Mr T: Thank God.
Mrs T: What if he doesn't exist?
Mr T: Who? God?
Mrs T: No. The baker who's supposed to make these pasties: Mr Tasty.
Mr T: I don't know.
Master Jacob: I've found my tooth.
Mrs T: Where?
Master Jacob: In the beans.
Mrs T: Thank God. Now we can have the bolognese.
Mr T, Master Ben, Master Sam and Master Jacob (in unison): Oh no!

Oh PS - if you wondering if the actor paying Hamm (in the chair) in the video clip is the William Peterson from CSI - yes, actually it is!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cleopatra Eyes and Silly Talk

I'm back. I've been gone for a few days as I've been doing a lot of reading and writing a serious article which I've now finished. So, I've got time to write here on my blog. Hurrah, I hear you say!

Okay, maybe not. Maybe a polite round of applause then? Oh come on, don't be so mean spirited, it's nearly Christmas!

The trouble is when I've been away for a while I tend to be a bit maniacal with my writing and I tend to wander off on weird and obscure tangents. Like Samuel Beckett. The Theatre of Absurd. Cornish pasties.

Okay, don't panic I'll leave that stuff to later.... hey I didn't even know I was going to write about Cornish pasties so if you think you're worried try being me! Hmm...I just said I was going to write about Cornish pasties and I have absolutely no idea why.

Anyway, why don't we start off with some music. Here's a great song by the very talented Shania Twain. I find her music and videos quite witty. If you watch the video you'll see what I mean. Also, watch out for her eye makeup because I'll be talking about eye makeup later. (Along with Cornish pasties.)



Wow, that song is fun and it takes the mick out of men too. Great stuff! I'd never do that myself of course because I love men. I even love George Bush - he's done so much over the years to drag me out of my depression.

Anyway, see that eye makeup Shania's got on? I call it "Cleopatra" eyes. All the big starts wear it like that with mascara and eyeliner all over the place. Well, the other day, I thought it was time I looked a bit more glamorous especially as this coming Saturday Mr T and I and the Young Masters are going to a presentation evening where the Young Masters will be picking up a nice bag of trophies. Hey, I couldn't help producing two sporting geniuses could I? It's in the genes! Okay, the fact that my eldest hasn't moved his legs for 10 years because he glued them to his Xbox does sort of ruin my success rate. Still 2/3 sporting geniuses ain't so bad is it?

Oh, and just in case you folks are wondering about how Young Sam is doing at college, he's doing fine. I know this because I rarely hear from him. In fact the other week I realised I hadn't heard from him for two whole weeks and the thought crossed my mind he might, as teenagers as wont to do, be lying in a pool of his own vomit. I therefore plagued him with relentless texts and emails one morning until eventually I elicited this in-depth response by text.

" Yes I'm fine."

There's nothing like a jolly two way conversation is there? Still, it's his birthday later in the month and I'm going over to his university to take him to lunch. Hopefully the conversation will be more than;

"How are you Son?"

"Fine."

"And your Xbox?"

"Fine."

"Meet any girls yet?"

" I bought a new game last week."

" Girls, Sam, Girls. I said; Have you met any girls? They're a bit like Xbox games but they have legs and arms. You can have sex with them."

" What's sex? Is that when you trade in your game?"

" No son. (sigh)  Sex is when you lose your sense for a while, discover you've got 3 sons and end up wanting to take a shotgun to your head."

Well back to Cleopatra eyes. So I got up one morning, all was quiet and I decided to play with my makeup. ( Apologies to my male readers for the girl talk. However do not protest too much as I know what you guys play with when you wake up in the morning - and it's not as innocent as makeup.) So I duly painted/ plastered/ sculptured the stuff on till I looked like Sophia Loren on crack. Strange - but familiar.

So there I am happily washing the dishes and doing the morning chores when Mr T finally gets up.( I say " finally gets up" as he just sleeps forever. I swear to God he is related to Rip Van Winkle.) So he's coming down the stairs as I come out the kitchen and he says;

"Oh my God it's Ozzy Ozbourne!"

" I do not look like Ozzy Ozbourne!"

"You do. If I'd woken up in the night whilst you looked like that, I'd probably have stabbed you!"

"HA!"

 (Note Readers there is as much chance of Mr T waking in the night as there is of Katie Price not selling her story to Hello every time she breaks wind.)

Well I was duly disconcerted that my attempts to look glamorous had been so casually dismissed so I decided to wait for a second and third opinion from the Young Masters. Hmm... Let's just say that their eyeballs falling out their sockets and their general look of horror was enough to convince me that Cleopatra eyes are not the way to go for Mrs T. In the end, after me parading various eye designs for the males in the household they concluded that my makeup look best....

exactly the way I've been wearing it for the last 30 years.

Brilliant. Sometimes I wish I had a daughter. And that I'd married a woman. Hey, why not? It's a free world!

Right, I'll have to come back to Becket and Cornish pasties as this post has gone on too long and it's already Dec 3rd and I don't have any Chrissie prezzies so I'd better get a move on.

Blimey, I love Amazon. I wonder if they sell spice racks? Mr T said he wanted something "hot" for Christmas.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Classic Comedy Conversations

Language is always changing. Words becoming redundant or develop an entirely new meaning. New words evolve. Of course, sometimes with all these changes, homophones and language quirks we can cross purposes which can lead to the most embarrassing or amusing incidents....

On Sunday, I was sitting by myself in the empty cafeteria at our local golf club whilst the boys were hitting a few balls on the driving range. I'd forgotten my glasses so instead of reading I was just taking in the surroundings and watching the Remembrance Day parade with the television on mute. All was peace and quiet....

The door swings open and two men enter, having just finished their round of golf. They are like chalk and cheese. One is weather beaten, in his mid fifties and what (not wanting to appear rude) what I would call a working man who has obviously "made good". The other is in his early twenties, fresh faced, confident and dressed in even more trendy golfing gear than the older gentleman. They are very much an "odd" couple.

The older man leans on the bar and orders drinks (beer for him, orange juice and lemonade for the youngster)......

Young man: Our flat got burgled on Friday night.

Older man: Kids on drugs probably. They'll steal anything these days. What did they get?

Young man: Mostly my flatmate's stuff.  They just used the box for my Mac which I'd left next to my bed to put all my mate's stuff in.

Older man: Bastards.


 Long pause.

Older man: What's a Mac?

(Another pause - Mrs T looks up over the cup of tea poised at her lips)

Older man again: You mean a mackintosh?

Young man: (Grins) No. A Mac is a computer. I use it to make my music.

Older man: Oh, I thought you meant your raincoat.

By this time I am in convulsed in laughter. My teacup is rattling so much I'm forced to put in down.  I just can't stop laughing because the comic timing was just perrrrrfect and the older man reminds me of a character straight out of  The Two Ronnies.

Older Man: What are you laughing for?

Mrs T: I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's a just a classic comedy conversation!

Older Man: (Grinning) I'm showing my age aren't I?

Mrs T. (Laughing) I'm afraid so!

Well the conversation went on a bit more after that and very nice gentlemen they were too. And the good news is the young gentleman and his friend got all their goods back as an alert neighbour spotted a suspicious looking youth going down their road with a Mac box piled high with goodies.

It's funny how the simplest things make you laugh the most. Anyway, that conversation reminded me of this classic comedy conversation by The Two Ronnies. Do watch the clip...it's comedy wordplay at its best.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Men and Women: Together at Odds.

This post was inspired by Georgie B (with thanks) who got me thinking about the differences between men and women:

1. Men like women's breasts. Women also like breasts. Particularly with peas, baked potato and a light mayo: we always appreciate a low calorie meal.

2. Men like women's backsides. The only backsides women like are the ones on their way out of the door at 7am. Unless the backside belongs to Arnold Schwarzenegger when we concede that firm buttocks can be attractive- especially when coated in $2000 Armani suit.

3.Men like women's legs. (Unless they belong to Helga the Russian shot putter) Women think men's legs are funny. Especially when men keep their socks on during sex or when they belong to Tom Cruise.

4. Men like women's underwear. Sometimes they even wear it. Women think both men's and women's underwear is laughable. They would never wear men's underwear although they might use it to polish the doorknockers, clean the toilet, or fashion a turban should they find themselves outnumbered at a PTA meeting.

5. Men like women in stilettos. Women like men with stilettos - especially if they look Italian and don't live in The Vatican.

6. Men like women with painted nails. Women like men with painted nails - especially when they've painted the dining room, the lounge, the hallway, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedrooms and the small cupboard under the stairs.

7. Men like women in skirts and gymslips. Women like men in skirts and gymslips - in a mental institution.

8. Men like women wearing nothing but a fur coat. Women like men fully dressed - women know that what lies beneath a man's clothes makes them want to laugh out loud. Especially on chilly days.

9. Men can't take their eyes of a woman who is bending over. Women can take their eyes of a man who is bending over - because generally speaking it's always a good idea to look at the oncoming traffic when you're crossing the road.

10. Men like women with glossy hair. Women like men with glossy hair. If a women loses her hair a man divorces her. If a man loses his hair the woman sticks a lampshade on his head and stands him in the corner of the room.

11. Men love women. Women love men. And somehow, despite all the odds, together we make music.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Music Monday; Lest We Forget

I can't remember when it began. This fascination with war. Yet, throughout my life, my imagination has been gripped by stories of human conflict. The interest may have begun one Sunday afternoon in front of the fire where I would often sit and watch old movies, it may have been from a book I picked up at the library or perhaps even from the knowledge that my father had served in the Royal Navy during The Second World War. But years on, having read countless war stories, watched numerous films and having studied history I am still just as fascinated by what is the most abhorrent of subjects.

For it is truly a repugnant subject. And the fact that so many wars appear to be have been wrongly waged makes it even more distasteful. Decimation, subjugation, bloody death, the murder of innocents - as a race our violence often has no limitations. At times we are no better than squabbling animals fighting over living space. Sadly, I think it is unlikely we will ever progress beyond those issues that cause us to wage war - perhaps the best we can hope for is that we fight on the side of justice and humanity. But, of course, who decides what is just and humane is always a question for debate.

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday here in the UK. Inevitably, I find myself watching the televised events held in honour of our fallen countrymen. As ex servicemen and women march stoically along the streets, often in their advanced years, I can't help but feel great sadness for the loss of so many men, women and children, all over the world, in the pursuit of war.

I wonder- if it were possible to total up the lives lost through war since mankind became "civilized" - how many would it be? With over 60 million deaths during WWII alone it must be an almost inconceivable number.

Of course, one of the most horrific events, which has had the most extraordinary impact in modern times, was the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Even my mother, as a young child during WWII, recalled the great sadness and shock that pervaded Britain when news of the events broke. I'm not going to even try and condemn or justify the action of the United States - all that needs to be said here is it that it happened and ultimately it was an important lesson for humanity. One which we should never forget.

However, as yesterday was Remembrance Sunday, I started thinking about songs about war. One that came to mind was by a band I particularly liked during the 1980s. They were called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark  (OMD) and their song was titled Enola Gay. ( If you are unfamiliar with the name Enola Gay- it was the name of the B29 bomber used to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945.) The music of OMD was very typical of the synthesized electric pop of the 1980s and Enola Gay had a particularly catchy tune which is one of the reasons I remember it so well.

One of the great things about music is that it is has the power to be universal. I like the image that all over the world, at any given time, thousands of people may be tapping their feet to the same beat.

It's a comforting thought don't you think?



Here's a short war story I wrote a while ago.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Judgement Day, Philosophy and the Meaning of the Word "Chair"

The weather is particularly gruesome here in the UK at the moment which is always conducive to slouching on the sofa with a good book. Indeed as I write the sky is dark grey, rain is lashing down and the wind is pulling ferociously at the trees and telephone wires.

So not a particularly great view from my study then. I did actually order a room with a picturesque canyon and sunset overlooking a discreetly placed chocolate factory. But God was on holiday and St Peter sent me the view for blasphemers. What an absolute rotter.

Yikes. Judgement Day. I've got some strong feelings and philosophies about Judgement Day which I can sum up (surprisingly) rather succinctly;

It's pretty scary stuff.

Yep, that's my philosophy. You didn't expect something profound did you? Look, I don't do profound stuff. Sometimes I try but every time it reminds me of what Mr T says when I serve up something new;

That was nice. But let's not have it again Mrs T.

Yeah, so best leave the clever theories to the real philosophers cos you know philosophy is pretty confusing stuff. It's like opening up (as I did recently) a "make your own gum shield", looking for the instructions and finding there isn't any. Then after locating your glasses ( which you discover after 10 mins were actually on your head) you check there isn't any very small printed instructions you can't see only to discover it reads instructions on accompanying Cd.

Yep, so me and the Cd made the gum shield together. Ahhh.... how sweet is that?! (Oh - and also with the cooperation of Master Jacob's mouth.) Gez what next..a Cd to help me vacuum?

Turn on the button Mrs T. No you should have it on at the plug first...That's right Mrs T. Start to push the cleaner around the room. No, don't miss out the rug. No Mrs T. Please do the rug.That's better..now let's do the stairs together.... now get down on your knees and let's do a really good job with my attachments....come on harder,  harder! Oh that is so good Mrs T- you really know how to use an attachment..........what d'you say we do we the bedroom next.......

Anyway, back to philosophy. Now I know about philosophy. (Well when I say "know"  I mean I "know" the word - I don't actually understand it.) Now I "know" about philosophy because apparently I studied it at university, alongside history. Well that's what it says on my certificate. Although you could be forgiven for not thinking I'd ever even heard of the word.... come on, I'm not exactly Martin Amis am I?

Yes, you've guessed it - Martin Amis is my new nemesis - move over Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher. Let's have an intellectual nemesis! I mean, how many jokes can you make about Ashton Kutcher and his cushion collection? Although, I admit, there are a lot of jokes to be made about Dear Tom - hey it's not his fault when the bogey man appeared in his bedroom when he was a toddler and told him to cut off his legs or he'd grow into a giant he believed him. After all, we all know Tom believes in little green men.

Whoops got sidetracked again... so anyway at university we studied religious and moral philosophy and metaphysics. Well, when I say "we" I mean everyone else studied metaphysics whilst I read Cosmo under the table with cotton wool stuck in my ears. I'll never forget though the lecture on The meaning of the word "chair." (That was one of the times I'd forgotten my cotton wool and after I put the ban on Cosmo for being ludicrous tripe.)

You know I thought a chair was just a chair. With 4 legs. And a seat. You know that kinda stuff - a place to park my butt when I don't feel like standing or I want to eat my dinner or when I want to hang out in front of the TV and oggle George Clooney in a repeat of ER. Now sometimes chairs come in plastic but mostly in wood. I particularly like oak chairs myself but if you're really trendy you can have one in metal with 3 legs which is called a stool. It's like a poor relation to the chair but does the same job. Sort of. But if it's a really really cheap stool you may get backache because there's no back support. (There's always a catch to something cheap isn't there?)  Now chairs are, on the whole, pretty good things unless they come from IKEA where they can be so low to ground you have to be Tom Cruise to sit in them. Or Martin Amis - who( unsurprisingly perhaps) is also small. Hmm... now what is it that attracts me to small men when I married a six footer? I'm not sure.... maybe it's because I like shoes?

By the way, did you know Adolf Hitler was only 5 ft 8? I bet he had a big shoe collection. Bigger than Tom's. And those boots... pretty kinky eh?

Anyway..chairs. Apparently they might not be actual "chairs". In fact, chairs may not even exist. Or they may exist but when you die they cease to exist because they only existed in your mind. Or maybe you have actually been faking sitting down? Maybe you haven't sat down at all - you were just bent over looking for marbles. Or maybe your mind isn't actually real and chairs are a manifestation of a supreme being with 4 legs who wears a tartan throw-over? Or maybe you're going out of your mind? Maybe you weren't even in your mind or on a chair in the first place? Or maybe...maybe... you aren't real at all? Oh yes indeed. Maybe your mind is, in fact, a vacuum of non existential gobbledygook existing in a space/time continuum?

Maybe the Time Lords were right after all.

Yes, that's it! The answer is with The Time Lords! Because why, why, why does The Doctor always stand and never sit in his tardis?  Why hasn't he got a chair? You know why? Because I'm thinking chairs actually never existed or if they did exist they were so evil, so cruel, so deadly that they were trapped in the gap between the first and second dimensions by the Time Lords and a fleet of marauding bean bags......

Right, so what I'm saying is philosophy is confusing stuff, especially metaphysics. I haven't got a chance in hell of understanding it. Do you know we even had some weird set of cards with funny signs and squiggles on them in my philosophy class. We were supposed to do something with them that would make us understand philosophy. I'm not sure exactly what though. Personally, I thought the lecturer was a covert recruiter for the Christian Scientists. I dunno, anyway I filed my pack in the bin. I expect the more trendy folks used theirs to cut their coke. That's me, always missing out on the fun.

Well that's it for today. I was going to talk about Judgement Day and get real philosophical about it all. But the truth is I don't understand it. It's all way way above my intellectual level. Although I will just say one thing about Judgement Day...

Darn good film. Arnie at his best. Love him to bits.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day - Director's Cut
Now that's my kind of philosophy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jagger, Richards and the Simply Stylish

I was a bit mean yesterday about Mick Hucknall of Simply Red. That's me... a little impetuous at times! Oh dear - but the good thing is no one ever takes me seriously so I never get into any trouble - although it's true I'm still waiting to hear from Martin AmisMind you, at least with this blogging world there's always the opportunity to edit and undo what you've done. Not so when you're in print! I wonder if Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones will ever regret writing about Mick Jagger's affair with Marianne Faithful in his autobiography Life.

Life

Now look away all you folks who don't want to be exposed to the lurid ramblings of  Keith Richards as here comes a particularly juicy quote from Keith about Marianne Faithful and Jagger...

(She) "had no fun with his tiny todger. I know he's got an enormous pair of balls - but it doesn't quite fill the gap."

Heaven's above! That's a bit too personal isn't it? And it's about his long term music partner and friend! It seems no one has told Richards about the "need to know" clause. Just as well he's just a rock star and not a doctor's receptionist....

Yeah Love, so you want a boob job - and a vasectomy for your husband. You know he can't have it done till his crabs clear up? Well I think so, I'll just check.... HEY DOC, CAN THIS BIRD'S HUBBY HAVE THE SNIP WHILST HE'S GOT THE CRABS? OH YEAH AND THE HAEMORRHOID'S?? OH  CAN SHE HAVE HER BOOBS DONE ON THE NHS???

Blimey, as if that idea isn't bad enough and just imagine what Keith would be like talking about his enemies;

Yeah, I saw the dude in the Gents at Stringfellows. His todger was so small I could barely see it. Like a pin prick. In fact, at first I thought it was a speck of dirt on his suit and went to brush it away for him. 'Course then the geezer said  "Yo Keith Baby, I never knew you cared. How about we make some sweet music together?"  Anyway, when I realised I wasn't hallucinating I kneed him in the groin and left.

Anyway, I thought I'd make up for being a tad ungracious to the talented Mick Hucknall by playing one of my favourite Simply Red tunes which I mentioned yesterday Fairground..



Oh, I'm not going to apologise for making a few jokes about Keith Richards - I think he's more than capable of looking after himself!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stuck in the Middle of the Dishwasher

This morning, after yet another mad rush to get the boys off to school, it was time to do the early morning household chores which included that mind numbing task of unloading the dishwasher.  Groan, groan, groan...

You know, I remember when I first got my dishwasher; it was like magic. I loved stuffing all the dirty crockery in it and all the surfaces being clean without hardly any effort. Just my style! (i.e - Fundamentally lazy.) But now folks I've become slack, cruel and heartless... I'm taking my dishwater for granted. Frankly, I'm a cow to it. I can't be bothered to clean it out (well it gets washed every day so why bother?) until it starts protesting by leaving smears over my glasses and sometimes I pack it so tightly the door is practically bulging and sometimes I even...I'm afraid to admit this folks... sometimes I even put cheap dishwashing tablets in it.....

Oh dear God what a heathen I've become! Right, I promise to buy some really really nice scented tablets next time I go shopping. I might even polish it.....

Anyway, back to my story - now to alleviate the boredom of unloading the dishwasher I usually put the radio on and listen to the local radio. So I did. However, there's some new presenters who aren't as entertaining as the previous duo so I switched off and went to look at my Cd's......my finger traced along the covers..as I pondered my choice....

Rod Stewart? Hmm... too...Rusty.


Cher? Nope..makes me feel too drab in my pinny.


Abba...Greatest Hits? Nah..too melodic for this time in the morning and besides my blonde wig is out on loan.


Keane?  Hmm... now there's a possibility. But a whole album at 8am? Could be a bit heavy...


Take That? (Yes I do have an album. Sorry. BUT only their Greatest Hits which I bought for £2.99 in Woolies before it closed down.) Umm.. Nope. Let's say that again because I like the sound.. NOPE.


Pet Shop Boys? Nah, too electronic for the early morning and somehow they always remind me the cat litter needs changing...


Simply Red? Hmm.... I quite fancy listening to Fairground but visualizing Mick Hucknall for 50 mins might put me in rehab....

And then my finger stopped on.....

 James Blunt. Ahhhhhhhhhh.....James Blunt. Hoorah! A bit melancholic for an early morning start but soooooo good!

I pulled out the CD, opened it...

NOOOO! No disc! Where's my James Blunt disc? Where, where, where? What miserable, dastardly thief has stolen my disc?!

Okay - it's probably me isn't it.? Yeah, I've know, in all likelihood, I've put it somewhere but can't remember. Oh well what's new? I'd probably forget to put my brain in if it wasn't already stuck between my ears. Anyway, until it turns up I'm blaming Mr T. (Goes without saying really - what are husbands for if you can't blame 'em for everything you can't find within 30 seconds?)

Right, so I put back the empty cover and my eye fell immediately on...

Michael Buble.

Yes! Yes! Yes! And I know exactly the right song....



Oh Yeah Baby! That is soooooo goooooood for Mrs T to groove to in her kitchen!

Shame about the broken dishes though.....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Booker in Question

Fiction choices are a very subjective matter; what is pleasure for someone can be angst for another. Nothing brings this more out in the open than speculation about how some of the leading book prizes are selected. Just what do the panel of learned judges look for and how do they come to their decision? Last year, The Man Booker prize, which has a whopping £50,000 attached was awarded to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Yet it has had mixed reviews in particular from the buying public who tend to judge a book on its readability and not on its literary merit. Certainly, everyone I know has at least struggled with parts of it or not finished it and, alas, my copy still sits on my waiting-to-read shelf. With over 650 pages I can't help but keep passing over it for more novels which appear to be less of a challenge.

Anyhow, this year the prize has been awarded to The Finkler Question by Harold Jacobson. Generally, my impression from the articles I've read is that it is an unpopular choice. So, what made the judges choose Jacobsen and did they reach the right decision?  The only way to decide is to read all the novels. So exactly what I'm going to do! It'll be an interesting project to see, if over the coming weeks/months, I concur with the panel of respected judges chaired by the former poet laureate Andrew Motion.


The Finkler Question

I've already read 3 of the contenders The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  by David Mitchell and In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut. Here's a run down of the books and my thoughts so far;

In third place so far isThe Slap

The Slap: A Novel


Set in Australia, the novel tells the story of a group of friends and family who meet for a barbecue. During the event a child who threatens another with a cricket bat is slapped, not by his own parent but the parent of the child under threat. The novel then explores the repercussions of the slap and the effect on 8 of the witnesses from their differing perspectives. The book and language are very contemporary so the novel is easy to read and there is enough interest to keep the reader hooked until the very last page. However, if you are easily offended by coarse language and explicit sex this is not the book for you.

The concept and format of The Slap is an original and interesting idea and overall I found the book highly enjoyable. However, I felt it never fully explored the moral issues of physical punishment and some of the characters felt less well rounded than others. However, the slap incident did provide the author with an opportunity to explore the nature of closely interwoven lives and to get inside the heads of his characters. To this extent it worked well as the net result is an entertaining tale of a microcosm of Australian life. The reason I felt The Slap didn't truly get to grips with its promising title was because neither the parents of the child victim or their child were very likeable; indeed my empathy was only fractionally above zero. Although Tsiolkas attempted to give them redeeming features and establish their friendships with other characters with a shared history he didn't really pull it off successfully. So although a few characters adopted the anti-slapping stance you couldn't help but feel their position was untenable, perhaps even tokenism, and that the victim really did deserve his punishment.

From my perspective, I know plenty of children who have been slapped who are are genuinely lovely children but on rare occasions their parents have needed to clearly establish between right and wrong and there was no other effective, immediate way of punishment. I've done it myself. You don't have to be a drunkard or a self righteous woman who breast feeds her child to the age of 4 as in The Slap to have a child who behaves badly. All children behave inappropriately from time to time; it's part of growing up. Learning about what behaviour is socially acceptable is an important lesson and, I believe, there are a few times in early childhood which smacking is an appropriate method. And I mean a few times; I don't mean uncontrolled, frequent slapping which might be categorised as physical abuse.

So, to this extent I felt it would have been far more interesting if the victim and his parents had been genuinely pleasant people and the book could have used that as instrument to discuss the morality of the issue to a far greater degree. Instead, the readers reactions are coloured by a lack of empathy for the offended family whereas a more balanced argument would have been far more intriguing - particularly as many parents, even reasonable ones, would be disconcerted to have another adult discipline their child with a slap.

There was one other issue that troubled me with this book and that was the amount of recreational drugs that appeared.  None of users suffered any dramatic or unpleasant consequences - I felt drugs were shown in a positive manner with the users generally gaining personal enjoyment or heightening their sexual experiences. Now this may indeed be an accurate reflection of this type of socially affluent Australian life and indeed the effect of casual drug usage- I've no idea as I'm not Australian and I've never even taken so much as a whiff of a joint- so it's not a criticism of the book just an observation. However, if this sort of drug usage is indeed so common place amongst affluent Australia then I find it very worrying indeed. Call me old fashioned - but I thought drugs were a bad thing! Maybe I've been missing out? I'm not so sure I want to find out but I can't help wondering what a young adult would feel when reading The Slap..

On to my second place so far which is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

That's a ghastly cover above to this wonderful book so please don't be put off. If you do get it buy the UK edition which is as gorgeous as the novel. Some of you may remember I went to London and listened to David Mitchell talk at the BBC about his award winning novel Cloud Atlas and later wrote a review of both Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet at The View From Here. So for an in depth review pop over here to The View. However here's a very brief summary of my thoughts....

Firstly, if you struggled with Cloud Atlas have no fear, you won't with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The novel is set in late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century so although the language has a period feel it doesn't have anywhere near the complex language of Cloud Atlas . The novel is also overall far less experimental than David's previous work so if you like a cracking good yarn with a traditional beginning, middle and end you won't be disappointed.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of Jacob de Zoet a Dutch clerk of the East India Company who travels to Dejima, a trading port of the coast of Japan, with the aim of establishing his credentials and returning home as soon as possible to marry his sweetheart. However, Jacob is soon caught up in the corruption and intrigue of the trading post as well as finding himself attracted to a Japanese midwife. That's just the absolute bare bones of the novel; there's so much colour and entertainment going on that a few sentences don't begin to do justice to it and with Mitchell's skill at description this book is an absolute joy to read. I'm pretty surprised it didn't make it to the Booker shortlist. Like The Slap it's another long read at 450 pages so if you're not keen on sagas, historical fiction or flowery descriptions it's not for you. Other than that, I can't come up with any fundamental criticism of Mitchell other than occasionally I feel his plots can be a little forced. It seems to me he really would like right an out and out adventure/thriller novel which isn't confined by his "literary" tag. Now wouldn't that be a real treat....

...And onto Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room. 

This is my favourite so far. I read it in just a few hours and not just because it's only 180 pages but because it is a riveting read. The story is divided in three journeys and recounted by a "Damon" in the third and first person. It's been debated whether it's an autobiography, a memoir or a travelogue but ultimately it's a work of fiction based on Galgut's memory. The way he switches between third and first person reminded me very much of the way I write on my blog when I tell a story about my life - slipping into third/first seems entirely natural format for me and I suppose for Galgut too. But that's where the comparisons end, for whilst I produce silly ramblings, Galgut has produced a work of incredible emotional honesty.
In a Strange Room

The three stories of In a Strange Room deal with power, love and the responsibilities that occur within relationships and it's difficult not to be caught up in poignancy of the heartfelt stories. Galgut's writing is sparse and doesn't have all the flowery descriptions of Mitchell yet he still manages to conjure up a very vivid, tense atmosphere. He breaks away from grammatical traditions too - there are no speech marks or questions marks; it's almost as if you are inside his head. The style reminded me very much of Cormac McCarthy's The Road ,another powerful novel. I closed In a Strange Room, much as I did Galgut's breakthrough novel The Good Doctor, acknowledging that Galgut is not just a hugely talented writer but also an intensely emotional and honest human being. It takes courage and integrity to produce a work like In a Strange Room.

So there we have it. In the lead by far at the moment is Galgut. Now bearing in mind I think all the other contenders, bar one, are still only available in hardback I've ordered them all from the library so I don't break the bank. Next up will be Trespass by Rose Tremain and February by Lisa Moore. In the meantime if you stuck with this post to the end- something lighter coming up up soon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

News, Views and Knickers

Okay it's not more stories of how I got caught short. So you can sink back into your chair and relax. I thought I'd take time out to tell you some news.

Firstly, it's all change at The View From Here where the team has been joined by some huge names in British publishing including Scott Pack of The Friday Project (Harper Collins), leading literary agent Simon Trewin of United Artists, publisher, poet and author Alessandro Gellenzi of Alma Books, editor and publicist Luke Brown of Tindal Press and the MD of Legend Press Tom Chalmers (who recently I dressed up in a skirt and sequins in my review of The Grease Monkey's Tale) as well as a good few others.

From right to left; Scott Pack, Simon Trewin, Luke Brown, Alessandro Gallenzi and Tom Chalmers. All new voices at The View From Here. 

The arrival of these new contributors is a big endorsement for The View From Here in our quest to bring new life to the world of literary magazines and showcase new talent alongside established names.

As for me, I will now be writing for the printed and digital versions only so if you've not taken a gander at those you can follow the links on my web page or pop over to The View From Here. You can even subscribe to the digital version via The View From Here website for a ridiculous $1.00 0r 69p an issue. That's incredible since you get unique articles, original fiction, book reviews and interviews with some of the biggest names in fiction. Next months magazine contains an interview with science fiction author Iain Banks!

Hmm....can you tell I used to work in sales?! Come on you know you want it really; how can you afford to miss out on Mrs T's unique literary ramblings? Okay, don't answer that question; I've got my pride you know. Still, if you lot want to read The Beano who am I to complain!

Right, now I've got that stuff out of the way let's talk about something really important - knickers. Big knickers.

Well Thank God - big knickers are finally back. Yep, those wretched things called thongs which are only good for catapults, French skipping and dental flossing are on their way out. And big knickers are back in. Hoorah! Apparently, according to a host of retailers, sales of thongs have been falling and big knickers growing.

Hmm..there's a joke it that somewhere but I'm not going there. I've only just had my breakfast.

Anyway, personally I'm delighted. Thongs are the most uncomfortable invention ever, no doubt invented by men for men and not actually for the comfort of women. So at last I can throw out those cheese graters which I've been forced to wear on "special occasions" without any guilt whatsoever; I can just tell Mr T I'm keeping up with fashion! God knows what he'll buy me for Christmas though without the pull of the underwear counter... I could be back to leg warmers and mittens. Ah well, it beats the hell of getting a thong in your Christmas cracker...

Right, that's it for the moment, it's the school holidays and I'm off to M&S to stock up on big knickers and school jumpers. See you ladies in the lingerie queue!

Oh - and see you gents at the sock counter; I know what I'm getting Mr T for Christmas.