Books, life the universe

Monday, 31 March 2008

Hands off our GMT

Keith over at Zen Mischief - link at the top of the page - has posted about the advantages of not chopping and changing the clocks twice a year. The cost - if you add it all up across the country - must be huge. The clocks on our floor have still not been changed because the person who usually does it has been busy all day, and none of us are supposed to stand on anything to reach them - but don't get me started on rules and regulations!

All the people I work with say that whilst they like the light evenings having to persuade their reluctant bodies to get going at what feels like an hour early, makes them feel really awful for several days at least. Added to which, if you get up at 6.00am as I do, it has now gone back to being not completely light - which makes me feel worse though I had started to feel better because of the light mornings we were having.

What I want to know is how many accidents are caused by the change from light mornings to darkish mornings? Whereas if we'd carried on with GMT the evenings would have continued to get lighter and so would the mornings. I found out over the weekend - somewhere - that it was the Germans who first thought up the idea and that we've had the legal option to do it since the early 1900s - about 1907-08 I think. Must look it up again. I'm sure I read that Daylight Saving Time is 100 years old.

After 100 years then I think we deserve to say - there's no point to it - let's stick with GMT. Then we can forget all about feeling zombie like twice a year and get back to feeling normal. Maybe I'll write to my MP about it, having discovered a very good site - which will let you compose and send an e-mail to your MP, MEP or local councillor.

Let's back tradition and stick with GMT - we invented it after all!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

British Summer Time

I feel like starting a campaign for sticking to GMT all year round. I can never see what good it does to change the time forward and back. I must say here the weather in my part of the world seems to have paid attention and it's bright and sunny after the rain and wind of yesterday, so a welcome change. It takes at least a month for me to get used to the change and I wander around like a zombie for the first few days every time. I suppose it's good for us - but I remain to be convinced.

I started reading 'In the Red: the diary of a recovering shopaholic' by Alexis Hall last night. Very fly on the wall and compulsive reading because of it. (Strange I don't like reality TV shows) I am also reading 'Indulgence' by Paul Richardson about his world wide search for the best chocolate - naturally he is a self-confessed chocoholic. I've just about finished Edmund Crispin's 'Holy Disorders' - an excellent example of the Golden Age of detective fiction. Reading it makes you realise how styles of writing have changed and how authors assumed a must greater education in their readers. I really need to read it with a dictionary in hand as there are several words I had not come across before and I consider myself reasonably literate!

I'm now off to read the Sunday papers on line - cheaper than buying the real thing but not quite as satisfying as curling up with a pile of newsprint.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Art Thief

I finished 'The Art Thief' by Noah Charney last night. I'm not sure why I bought it in the first place but it was worth reading. A complex plot of cross and double cross in the world of Fine Art with lots of fascinating information about how to steal paintings. Not just about how to steal them but also about how to fake them and why you might want to. Such books will always be compared favourably or unfavourably with the Da Vinci code, and this may have been inspired by it. 'The Art Thief' was just as complex but written in a more literary style with paintings going missing in Italy, France and England. There were detectives battling with minimal clues which included a thief who kept leaving references to bible verses at the scene of the crime, and a museum curator who is perhaps not all she seems. There was a neat twist towards the end which I won't give away but it is worth reading the book for this alone. I guessed part of what had gone on but not the final piece or the people involved. My only complaints are concerning the author's at times convoluted descriptions and his constant use of the word 'perpendicular' instead of 'vertical'. This grated on me after a while and certainly if I'd been editing the manuscript I would have suggested he cut the word completely. If it was used as referring to architecture that would have been fine, but it wasn't. Overall though an enjoyable book and I shall be looking out for his next one.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Back to work

My first day back wasn't too bad - well it could have been worse. At least I could see my desk, which was better than I expected it to be. I suppose the advantage of having time off leading up to a Bank Holiday is everyone else is at least not working over the Bank Holiday either - provided we're talking office jobs of course.

Everyone is also totally disgruntled about the proposed changes but somehow all of us moaning together improved the mood no end. I felt pretty well back to normal by the time I got home. I had to go to the post office on my way home and I didn't even get uptight about the long queue when I got there. I just stood calmly thinking shiny happy thoughts and the queue diminished rapidly. Oh the power of positive thinking!

It is now 8.00pm and I could do some writing, but I'm not sure my brain is up to it, so I shall relax with a book instead I think, and hope to be in a writing mood tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

It really is snow today!

Yes I woke up to a white world today - about 3 inches of the stuff. It's gradually disintegrating now, and it looks as though the sun is trying to break through the clouds. So we have daffodils and snow! I have known snow at Easter when Easter was in April before and I think we should never be surprised by British weather. It does look beautiful.

I am currently reading Wendy Holden's 'Filthy Rich' - a blockbuster - 563 pages. No I haven't finished it yet, I've only got to page 320. It is good light reading but if I was the editor I'd have cut most of the first 150 pages as it wouldn't have altered the story as far as I can tell at the moment.

I'm also reading a book about one man's search for chocolate called 'Indulgence' - a must for any chocoholic out there.

Off to read the Sunday papers on line.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Vitriol on Amazon

I had not realised that when you post a book review on Amazon that people reading it can comment on your review as well as saying whether the review was helpful to them or not. I have just found a comment on my 'Petite Anglaise' review asking me why I bothered to buy the book when I could have read the blog for free. I had said in my review that I hadn't read the blog. I started to type in a full answer but then thought - why should I? It's none of this person's business, so I just put I preferred to read a book rather than a blog - meaning I really don't want to read reams and reams on screen.

Then I looked a bit further and realised that this same person appeared to be commenting on all the positive reviews - including one comment on another review - 'This review is ridiculous.' Well no - in your opinion it might be but that's all it is your opinion, which you're perfectly entitled to express. I looked a bit further on my own reviews and found someone had left a sarcy comment on my Delia Smith review. I said I loved the wipe clean cover - why don't more cookery books have them? Obviously the person commenting thought it was stupid. What happened to tolerance?

Cordon Bleu cookery and blogs

I have finished reading Michael Booth's 'Sacre Cordon Bleu' and found it very good. The writing is fluent and amusing both about the cookery and about the people. He is honest about his own failings and prejudices and totally over the moon when he does well overall in the course. He must either have been brave or foolhardy to uproot his whole family and move to Paris to learn to cook from the masters. Especially as he only spoke rudimentary French. This is a great read and useful for picking up odd tips about cooking - and it contains some recipes and a helpful list at the end of what the French know about food that the rest of us seem to overlook. I loved the trials and tribulations with lobsters.

I have just about finished 'Petite Anglaise' by Catherine Sanderson. It seems the reviewers on Amazon did not expect an autobiography to be about the author's life. Maybe they misunderstood what it was about. I found it painfully honest with no attempt made to justify her own actions. She was bored with her life and her relationship with 'Mr Frog', with it all taking on a same old, same old quality. We've all been there.

Her blog about her day to day life got her out of the rut and introduced her to more people including potential lovers. She became involved with one - James - and any outsider could see it was doomed. But Catherine was in the middle of it and couldn't read the outcome. I found it a very honest book - warts and all. Was she shallow and selfish? Easy to say that of anyone who breaks up a long term relationship. If that's the case shallow and selfish probably applies to a good half of the population. To me it's a book about a human being with the bad bits left in. I enjoyed it. I am interested in the current phenomenon of blogs turning into books and try and make a point of reading any that come to my notice. I have belatedly looked for her blog on the Internet.

Nice weather for Easter - windy and snow forecast - though it's sunny here at the moment. I am not intending to venture out unless I have to until Tuesday when I'm back at work. Oh the luxury of having Tesco deliver!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Nearly the end of my holiday

Actually another 4 days if you don't count today. It feels as though it's gone really quickly. I was thinking I haven't got much to show for it, but actually I have. I'm now up to 57,000 words with my writing project. I've read several books and started several more, sold several more that I've finished with on Amazon and EBay, written some book reviews on Amazon and seen my reviewer rank go from about 15,000 to 6,214 - not bad for a fortnight! I can see I'm going to be looking at that every day now! I make a point of reviewing everything I read - either good or bad - both on here and on Amazon. It's a quick way of ensuring I do write something every day.

I'm feeling a bit glum at the moment as there are big changes at work in the pipeline which may mean me having to considerably increasing my commuting distance. Unfortunately I cannot mention these in detail or I'm in trouble. But I expect I shall soon have got my normal attitude to such things back again. I've seen loads of changes during the last 30 odd years and all of them have worked out for the best in the end.

But I've still got 4 days to enjoy myself so why make myself miserable? Off to cook a nice meal. Nothing like comfort food to improve one's mood.

Monday, 17 March 2008

When the bough breaks - part 2

Yes I've finished it and pretty harrowing reading it was too. I'm glad I did read it even though I am not at all maternal myself. I think she's a very courageous lady and cannot agree with India Knight in the Sunday Times that she was selfish in giving up her severely brain damaged baby. Julia Hollander knew she didn't have what it takes to give up her life 24/7 to a child, to the detriment of her other daughter and her then partner, now her husband. She had lots of misgivings about it and went through hell before everything was settled. The stupidity of our current set up for helping disabled people meant that Imogen's foster carer would always get more financial help and practical support than Julia would as the child's mother. Julia and her family always see Imogen every fortnight and will continue to do so and she seems to be very much part of the family. It seems to me that Imogen ended up in the best possible situation for her - with someone who has the abilities to look after her without resenting the sacrifice. Such a sacrifice has to be willingly made or not made at all in my opinion.

I have just spent all morning cleaning the car - it was disgusting! I even had to wash it twice before it looked ok - and I'm no perfectionist! What's more it's got some special coating on it that's supposed to make it easier to clean. It doesn't. I am very pleased that we didn't pay the dealer to put the coating on at £200! Instead we found out where to get the stuff to do it with and did it ourselves - following all the instructions. It's supposed to mean that you only need to polish your car once every three years - not true. I've polished it today because it needed it and it's only been on there 6 months!

I have just started reading Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson - another book that arose out of a blog - looks like compulsive reading so far.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

When the bough breaks

'When the Bough Breaks' by Julia Hollander has been in the media recently. India Knight was so scathing of her that I felt I had to give the lady a chance and read her story in her own words. Briefly she and her partner had one child and she became pregnant with a second. All went well apart from some minor problems until she started in labour. Imogen was born with severe brain damage. I've got just over half way through the book and it's not clear at the moment whether the damage is due to the problems at birth or whether she would have had the damage anyway. From the publicity about this case I already know she later abandoned the child because she simply could not cope with having to care for her 24/7. I can understand where she's coming from as I am sure I couldn't have looked after such a child. Not everyone is able to make such sacrifices, and it must be far better to recognise this and act accordingly. She doesn't come over as a terribly likeable character but I admire her honesty. I see nothing wrong with her making money out of her story either. She has committed no crime by giving up the child.

Why is everyone so against Delia Smith? Her new book and TV series is not meant for experienced cooks, but for those who have decided they don't want ready meals all the time. You can mix and match ingredients anyway and it's also a useful book for anyone in a hurry -provided they use the book as a shopping list to stock up their store cupboards. Hands off Delia - if you like to mill your own wheat don't buy this book. If you're an ordinary person - even of you know how to cook - buy it for the times when you've a meal to cook but you don't have the inclination. One thing you can be sure of is that if it's Delia it'll be easy to follow and taste good. There are far too many food snobs around in my opinion who live to cook rather than cook to live.

Monday, 10 March 2008

The weather etc.

I find this really windy weather very frightening. Something to do with the sheer power of nature and the fact that in the face of it human efforts are just so puny and ineffectual. We just have to sit it out and hope we'll emerge unscathed the other side. On the other hand having just heard 3 fighter jets go over the house so low I felt like ducking, we're maybe in more danger from human activities! Please leave the roof on boys!

Personally I don't have a problem with the RAF flying low over here. We aren't far from the bombing range in the Wash - as the jets fly - and we're not far from Waddington, Scampton Coningsby or Marham in Norfolk. However if they're really noisy they can startle you, especially as it's quite quiet usually.

The wind here could have been worse. I think we just got the edge of the storm. I sometimes think because we're so low lying - almost below sea level - we escape some of the worst weatehr as it sails over the top of us almost. But it's eased off a lot now, and we're supposed to have a peaceful night.

I've just started reading Alexander McCall Smith's latest in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series 'Miracle at Speedy Motors.' I love these books with their gentle humour and knowledge of human nature. They contain what might be called old fashioned values nowadays - caring for others, trying not to hurt people, apologising when you're in the wrong and helping people whenever you can. I think these books are an acquired taste perhaps and certainly not everyone I recommend them to likes them. I like his 44 Scotland Street stories as well but have never yet managed to read the Isobel Dalhousie series.

Writing - 48,000 words - 152 pages of double spaced A4 - deliberately face down in a box file so that I won't be tempted to read it yet. May do some later this evening

Sunday, 9 March 2008

It's Sunday

I have has a relaxing Sunday reading the Sunday papers - actually on paper for a change. I usually do this when I'm not working during the following week. I'm off now until March 25th, and I've been really looking forward to it. Time to surf the net, read and write, and just relax.

I have currently nearly finished reading 'Trust me I'm a (junior) Doctor' by Max Pemberton. This is the book of The Daily Telegraph column. I'm sure if we really knew what went on in any profession we would never trust them again. I find it interesting reading these descriptions of every day working life. I've read several by various members of the medical profession and found them all compulsive reading. How doctors see patients is always illuminating and should make us behave differently. I'm not sure it does but then who is any good at recognising their own abominable behaviour? I recommend 'trust me' as an insight into the workings of any NHS hospital. Perhaps I'll put another list on Amazon of books about jobs.

I was reading today about a supposedly senior civil servant who has written a blog about the failings of ministers and her own colleagues. I've just tried to read it from the link on the Times web site - needless to state I couldn't get on it. Either because the powers that be have banished it to outer darkness or it's simply so busy it's crashed. Blogging about one's employer tends to end in the sack - ridicule can be painful. I'm too close to my pension to risk all by letting off steam in public, but good luck to anyone who does try.

One day I'll master putting in links but I don't think my brain is working properly today!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Thorn in the Flesh

I have just finished reading Anne Brooke's 'Thorn in the Flesh'. In the end, having carried it around with me for the last few days I found I had to know what happened, and read the last 100 pages nearly at a sitting. Kate, like most of us, is her own worst enemy. She is a very private person and does not confide even in her best and oldest friend, Nicky. If she had done things might have been different.
Kate is raped. She is afraid she knows who it was, even though he wore a nask. But she only tells the police part of her ordeal and doesn't tell them about the threatening letters she has been receiving before and after the attack. Kate does not want face up to her past. She would rather bury it deep and not acknowledge it even to herself. But the attack forces her to confront both her past and her own character flaws. When Nicky may be in danger, Kate finds she has the strength to overcome.
The book raises many issues, including how a woman deals with that most feared of crimes - rape - especially when she thinks she knows who her attacker is. How to continue a very close relationship with a childhood friend when she marries and has a family, without coming between her and her husband. How to deal with the past and your own memories when the past comes back to haunt you. It is not a comfortable story to read, but it is gripping and all women will indentify with Kate, when she tries to overcome the mistakes of her youth. Kate's solution to her problems develops from her own particular character and the violent ending is wholly right for the story.
Read this book if you want the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. You will question your own feelings about rape, friendship and your attitude to your own past.