Skip to main content

Posts

The Robin - Stephen Moss

One of the few advantages of living in Sussex is the nature and wildlife. Sure, every city has birds and foxes, but seeing the skylark for instance, up on the downs, is glorious. The way it ascends and then almost dances its descent with its characteristic and beloved song is joyful. But come Christmas, it's the robin most people think of. I received two robin related presents - a large tin garden robin from the husby - and The Robin - The Life of Britain's Favourite Bird, by Stephen Moss. It's a fascinating book, categorised into months - and follows the robin from nest to grave. A robin is lucky to live 18 months and may enjoy a bit of 'me' time in between two or, sometimes, three broods. I also received Steve Barnett's book 'The Countryside Year', which is again categorised into months, but which covers 'field and flower', 'landscape and culture', and wildlife. For January it states that we can expect a visit from the siskin, 'a …

Heather - Bush Theatre

Off to the Bush Theatre in Shepherd's Bush on Monday evening to see Heather, playing in the smaller studio theatre. It's the first time I've visited since the very well thought-out extension. Heather is a 55-minute two-person drama in three parts by Thomas Eccleshare. It starts ordinarily enough with an exchange of emails between a publisher 'Harry' and the new author 'Heather'. The author is reluctant to give public interviews or even to meet the publisher and we wonder whether the reclusive act is just a ploy for the author to create promotional mystique. Heather's book does well, which sees the publisher urging her on to turn up for the launch of the second book in what becomes a wildly successful series. Of course it's parodying J.K Rowling's success with Harry Potter.  But this comes with a delicious twist, revealed in the second act, which shows neither Harry nor Heather are whom they seem. The third act saw the two actors use the small sp…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…

Girl from the North Country - Old Vic

To The Cut last night to see Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson - he of The Weir. The story is set in a hotel in Duluth, Minnesota, in the ongoing Depression of 1934. Nick Laine is the hotel 'owner', although it is more accurate to state that the bank owes it, not him. Nick is married to Elizabeth, who now has dementia. They have two grown children - Marianne, a tall, graceful black girl whom they adopted when she was abandoned at the hotel years before and who now does a lot of the work in the hotel, as well as looking after her mama - and Gene, an alcoholic writer who doesn't seem to write - or certainly doesn't get published. The cast is an ensemble of characters - Mrs Neilson, with whom Nick is having an affair; Mr Burke and his wife and their 'simple' adult son, Elias; Doctor Walker; and Joe, who it seems has escaped from prison and is now en-route to Chicago, accompanied by a fellow escapee/bible salesman. The story is al…

Reith Lectures - Hilary Mantel - Resurrection

Hilary Mantel is delivering this year's Reith Lectures, on the theme of resurrection. The first lecture, The Day is for the Living, was given at the Halle in Manchester, has Mantel declaring that her great-grandmother was the daughter of a Patrick, the wife of a Patrick, and the mother of a Patrick. The past is what's left in the sieve once the centuries have run through it, she says.

Elizabeth Strout - Olive Kitteridge

Having recently read My Name is Lucy Barton by New England writer, Elizabeth Strout, I turned to another by her, Olive Kitteridge, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Strout excels in characterisation through concision. Just a two-word expression by a character, which crops up through the text, is enough for this reader to more fully imagine what makes them tick. 
Olive Kitteridge is the type of character people love to hate, or hate to love. She is, on the surface, brusque, no-nonsense, plain-speaking, forthright. And she is, to a large degree, the same beneath the surface. A former 'math' teacher, each chapter introduces us to former pupils, neighbours, son, former daughter-in-law, and local shopkeepers, as they each contend with the struggles and strifes of life in a small New England community by the sea, (and the disapproval of 'the summer people') and Olive's interactions with each. The New Yorkerrecently featured a profile of Strout, by Ariel Levy…

Not pregnant

I am not pregnant. A couple of weeks ago, just a day after returning from a week in Cyprus, I had pains, which got so bad that I felt like jumping out of my own body and discarding it somewhere. Husby took me to the local hospital, which I had never wanted to step foot in due to an unsatisfactory appointment I had there a few months ago, which involved a patronising consultant and feeling like I had been dragged into the 1950s. Four hours after waiting in an A&E room that was only a third full, I was sent back home - nothing confirmed. The next day the pains were much worse - like nothing I had ever experienced, and hope I never will again. I felt like a tortured animal, with sounds to match. This time I was rushed back to the same hospital bypassing the waiting room, and within five minutes had been given enough morphine to take the edge off the pain. I was kept in overnight, and a miscarriage was confirmed. The nurses and doctors - all of whom save one were female - were exempl…