Wednesday 23 July 2014

Work Whinge of the Week - electoral register

We have had a busy time at work recently; the long awaited revision (in the pipeline since I arrived over three and a half years ago) has finally been implemented so some of us are struggling to learn yet more new duties and we are all struggling with the IPS because about half of the roads have been moved to a different walk. Added to that this week they sent out individual letters telling everyone about the new voter registration system, something which always brightens our morning. However what is really irking is the advert. What is it with advertisers who still live in the 1950's and whenever they use images of post arriving through letterboxes it is gathered up by people in their pyjamas. It is this kind of thing that makes people think that their post is late; people see this and think that there are other people  out there who get their post at breakfast time and wonder why they don't. *Nobody* gets their post at breakfast time any more. We don't leave the office til *9.30*. I wish the advertising industry would give us a break.

Not a half-arsed book review

I have three book reviews sitting half done in the draft folder and not much inspiration to finish them (not that they were bad books, I've just been feeling a bit meh), and then we are off to HESFES on Saturday, so this is just a quick hi and bye post. We have spent most of my spare time in the last couple of weeks getting stuff sorted out for Monkey's grand adventure in the real world (Year of the Monkey) in less than two months. She went to a getting-to-know-you party in London at the weekends to meet some of the other Monkeys, and might even have some housemates organised. She now has lots of plain t-shirts, a dish for macaroni cheese, a wok (£3 bargain charity shop find), a cheese grater, wooden spoons, her own nail scissors and tweezers, the very important notebook that we are going to make a felted cover for, and, most excitingly, nude coloured underwear! 
One issue that did remain was the safe transportation of the Monkey Quilt:
 So this morning I have made it a bag:
 and she is all set to leave home.

Friday 11 July 2014

Bunny Love

Who doesn't love bunnies
 The bunnies have been busy
hopping around the garden, and the living room, and the bedroom,
getting all excited about their trip to HesFes
 Monkey thinks they are getting a bit out of hand, 
but I think the more the merrier:
(Knitted roughly to the March Hare Pin Brooch pattern)
(Linking back to Fibre Arts Friday, please visit the other fibre creations)

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Beautiful Ruins

'Beautiful Ruins' by Jess Walter.
Some time ago I started reading 'The Financial lives of Poets' and really didn't like it so took it back to the library. It was only when I finished 'Beautiful Ruins' and read the interview in the back that I realised it was by the same author, and, strangely, that Jess was a man not a woman. There had been a couple of occasions while reading when I had thought 'a woman just would not write that sentence' (usually when he expressed something profoundly misogynistic and clich├ęd) but I had dismissed it as just a stylistic quirk. Having said that I loved this book. It was clever and witty and engagingly complex and all beautifully tied together. It will make a great film.

The book hops around in time and space to tell the story of Dee and Pasquale. She floats into and then out of his remote italian fishing village leaving in her wake a ripple that flows through the story. And so he turns up fifty years later at the office of a slightly sleazy movie producer in the hope of finding out what happened to her. Everyone in the tale has dreams, and reality intrudes very forcefully into all of them, but they cling on regardless. Pasquale dreams of tourists discovering his tiny hamlet and coming to play tennis overlooking the bay; Michael Deane dreams of money; Claire Silver dreams of helping to produce real films; Pat dreams of success, and drugs and alcohol; Avis Bender dreams of finishing his novel; Shane Wheeler just wants to make a movie. In 1962 they are filming 'Cleopatra' and Michael Deane has been sent to turn it from a money pit into a film that might not break the company. He decides to use the tempestuous relationship between Taylor and Burton to fuel the publicity, but has to deal with the tricky problem of Dee Moray and so has hidden her in Pasquale's remote little hotel. Richard Burton makes a wonderful cameo appearance placing this part of the story firmly within the chaotic world of the film industry. Pasquale's disgust with the manipulative treatment of Dee forces him to reassess his own choices and behaviour. The other half of the story takes place in present day America; Michael Deane is looking for a way out of his financial entanglements with the studio but finds himself caught up in Pasquale's quest to find Dee and the private detective comes up with some unexpected results. 

I loved these two little moments between Pasquale and Dee, because it is exquisitely romantic; everything that exists between them is unspoken, unacknowledged, and yet it still endures:

" 'At first it seemed like the saddest thing to me,' she said, 'that no one would ever see these paintings. But then I got to thinking: What if you tried to take this wall and out it in a gallery somewhere? It would simply be five faded paintings in a gallery. And that's when I realised: perhaps they're only so remarkable because they're here.'
'Yes,' he said again. 'I think so.'
They sat quietly, as the day deepened, sunlight from the turrets slowly edging up the wall of paintings. Pasquale's eyes felt heavy and he thought it might be the most intimate thing possible, to fall asleep next to someone in the afternoon." (p.273)

"Pasquale climbed into the fish-gut-stained boat and sat in the bow, his knees together like a schoolboy at a desk. He was unable to stop his eyes from sweeping the front of the hotel, where Dee Moray had just stepped onto the porch and was standing next to Avis Bender. She shielded the sun from her eyes and looked down at him curiously.
Again, Pasquale felt the separate pulls of his mind and body - and right then, he honestly didn't know which way it would go. Would he stay in the boat? Or would he run up the path to the hotel and take her in his arms? And what would she do if he did? There was nothing explicit between them, nothing more than that slightly opened door. And yet ... what could be more alluring?
In that moment, Pasquale Tursi finally wrenched in two. His life was two lives now: the life he would have and the life he would forever wonder about.
'Please,' Pasquale rasped to Tommaso. 'Go.' " (p.308)

There is a fabulous cast worthy of an epic film, I particularly loved Tommaso the Communist and Aunt Valeria and all the residents of Porto Vergogna. So the story jumps back and forth between the two times, with merely a glimpse of the years in between. The crossroads that brought them together was left far behind and lives were just lived as if it had not happened, but the ripples were still there, lapping at the shore and sometimes you just have to know. It is really about the chaotic nature of life and how people's choices and decisions impact on each other, and that maybe after all the chaos things will quieten down and you might finally find what you need. A  truly satisfying read, it took him 15 years to complete apparently and was certainly worth the wait.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

Having had such different reactions to 'The Man who Disappeared' and 'Natural Flights of the Human Mind' I reserved 'Astonishing Splashes of Colour', Clare Morrall's Booker Prize shortlisted novel. It came in large print from the library, but I still wore my glasses to read it, is that a bad sign? My reaction to this one was somewhere in between. 
Kitty lost her baby, and lives next door to her husband. And that's not even the weirdest thing going on in her life. A missing sister, a dead mother and a strange concoction of brothers add to the mix. The sturdy reliable grandparents who could have been some real support to her have been abandoned in favour of a flakey painter father who resents her going off to make a life of her own. She loiters outside school gates pretending to be collecting a child and is driven crazy by the idea (of her own making) that her sister-in-law has had an abortion. Things take a turn for the worse when she takes her nieces on a surprise trip to the theatre and you can kind of see the 'car crash' of events unfolding in slow motion. It's not surprising really considering she discovers that everything she thought was real about her life was a lie, no wonder she is such an emotional wreck. I almost felt it was too much to heap onto one poor defenceless character.

"But it won't be all right in the morning. I'll be as silent then as I am now. I have no past. No mother, no significance in my brother's lives, and no baby memories, because they have all been destroyed by my father. No future. No children to depend on me, to take a little bit of me, to remember me.
I go out when the sun begins to rise. I don't want anyone to come and find me, because I'm afraid they might not see me. I'm afraid that I don't really exist at all.
I walk a long way, right into the centre of the city and out again on the other side into an area where I've never been before. There are a few people around, even at this hour, but I look at the ground and pretend not to see them. I have too much silence in me to smile or say 'Good morning'. They are people going to work. Postmen, milkmen, shift workers waiting for the bus to take them to Longbridge, Cadbury's, all-night Sainsburys. They seem to purposeful. They know they exist, they know where they are going.
I walk fast. I want to look as if I know where I'm going, as if I have a purpose like everyone else." (Chapter 5)

Don't really have a lot to say, I have had other things preoccupying me and I kind of drifted through the book. In fact I have been drifting generally since I got back. What was so well written is her sense of dislocation from reality; despite her often bizarre behaviour you do get the twisted logic for each choice she makes. A story really about family, love, lies and memories, and how important they are for your sense of identity. 

I have been writing a review of Virgin Suicides but we are going to turn Tuesday Knitting Club into a bit of a Book Club so I will put off posting it until everyone has read the book and we have had our discussion. I have a few days off and have mostly been knitting Hesfes Bunnies.