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Toibin

The last time I took a week off work I immediately came down with a nasty little cold. I've been off work this week. Yes, I also came down with a nasty little cold. This time it has been worsened by also moving home. The morning after my first night in new place I felt like I had been pummelled to within an inch of my life - and yet wasn't sure what was cold and what was the result of lugging too many boxes up and down stairs. There has been some reading though. I borrowed The Empty Family, a collection of short stories by Colm Toibin, from Kew Library. I know I mentioned it in the last post, but I have to say again how bizarre I find living in a borough whose libraries all seem intact.

I like Toibin; Brooklyn was a master class in concision creating depth of feeling. I couldn't get into his earlier work though, like The Heather Burning. But The Empty Family is back to the longing; portrayals of those who have lost love - before that sounds incredibly dated - Toibin manages to both evoke a long Sunday before shops were open - and our contemporary era. In one story, powerful telescopes can easily focus in on a wave curling on the distant sea - in another, an ageing film set designer is perplexed and nonplussed at the same time, at the rebellious reaction her order-barking receives in present day Ireland; she, a product of more obedient times.
The prose is so finely crafted that it makes me appreciate just how difficult writing, really good writing, is. Which is probably one of the reasons I've not yet cracked on with my own work-in-progress.

I have finally finished the first draft of a book review though, which is something. I think I just always need firm deadlines - although they are not needed when my natural enthusiasm is awake and the writing is more pleasure than pain!

But I do have a cold. And I have moved home this week. And that's enough to be getting on with. And if you're looking for a good tea shop in Barnes, go to Orange Pekoe. I only had a cup of fresh ginger and honey in there today, but their tea menu is extensive; black, green and white.

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-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-


And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised

***


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…