Books, life the universe

Sunday, 31 August 2008

It's improving

I managed to read for quite a while yesterday - though nothing very taxing! I'm sleeping better as well which helps. I'm getting better at eating with my left hand as well. It's a real challenge to eat strawberries and ice cream with a tea spoon before the ice cream melts!

I think what has got to me most is not being able to do things for myself. Independence is important so I try and find ways of doing things without help, but that means even trivial things are exhausting. Still there have to be lessons to be learnt here if only that pride comes before a fall.

I knew I needed time off work but didn't want to take it because of what's going on at present and how much I was involved in it. But of course I'm not indispensable and others have taken my place. Circumstances have conspired to give me the time to relax. I should have listened to my instincts.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Books read

'24 for 3' by Jennie Walker - a pseudonym of Charles Boyle the poet. This is a novella rather than a novel and unique as books go. It covers the time span of a test match between England and India. The female narrator - never named - has no knowledge of cricket and her husband - Alan - and lover - the loss adjuster - attempt to explain the rules to her. Stepson Selwyn goes missing for a few days though a phone call is received to say he is all right. The narrator toys with the idea of leaving her husband and family. There are little gems of poetic description and the symbolism provided by the match is linked to everyday life. It is a beautiful book and the Hockneyesque cover really sums it up.
'Got You Back' by Jane Fallon demonstrated in quite literary fashion that you cannot team up with someone else to exact revenge on a third party because you always have different ideas about when enough is enough. Seldom have I read about a believable character with such large feet of clay. James, the husband, is someone we've all met who seems to think his view of life is the right one and everyone sees what he sees. It does not have the conventional happy ending.
I've also read 'Now Then, Lad . . . .Tales of a Country Bobby' by Mike Pannett. This has a very chatty conversational style and contains both funny and tragic events. His knowledge of human nature and the criminal world are wide and he demonstrates how policing in the country is different from policing in London. He transfers back to his home county of Yorkshire because he misses the countryside. His love of the area really shines through. The only thing I found irritating was the Yorkshire dialect - he could have simply commented on the way they spoke and written the dialogue in plain English.
I have also started - Anne Brooke's 'Maloney's Law' - 70 pages - good so far Anne. I like Paul but am definitely less sure about Dominic!
For total contrast I'm also reading Christina Jones' 'Happy Birthday'.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Time off

I have today and tomorrow off work - and of course the weekend and the Bank Holiday. I find August Bank Holiday a bit depressing as it's the last one before Christmas. It somehow feels like we are nearly at the end of the year. But I have been busy today. I have - balanced our bank accounts and paid bills; done the floors downstairs - duster on a stick as they're laminate; caught up with all the shredding - I really should do it every week - so much for good intentions; and made two meals. So I feel I definitely haven't wasted today especially as I also found time to walk to the post office - 10 minutes - and post a letter. I'm going to have a shower a bit later on and then come back to the computer at 8.00pm to see what Amazon have in store for us Vine people to choose from this month. I do love free books - especially from Amazon as they get so much of my money anyway.

As I've been having a chick lit phase recently I have just re-read Hester Browne's 3 books about The Little Lady Agency - 'The Little Lady Agency', Little lady, Big Apple' and 'What the Lady Wants'. The test of a good book to my mind is whether you can read it more than once and these 3 fulfil that criterion. I'm always interested in people pretending to be what they're not and Melissa/Honey is a brilliant creation. These are real feel good reads and better written than many.

I think I'm about to have a crime phase as I have Anne Brooke's 'Maloney's Law' and 'Now then, Lad' yet another description of police daily life glaring at me from the 'to read' pile. Not to speak of Martin Edwards' 'The Arsenic Labyrinth' which has gradually worked its way to the bottom of the pile somehow. Maybe I will have a crime weekend.

On a more sombre note - the tragic air crash in Madrid. let's hope it's not pilot error otherwise the pilot's family will have to live with that as well as losing a loved one. Flying is still the safest form of travel statistically. Though statistics are very little comfort when someone you know is involved.

Monday, 18 August 2008

I thought this was summer? and books.

Whatever happened to summer? Or did I somehow miss it by having a lie in one day? It's not cold just wet and miserable and windy. I can only think of two or three days this summer when I've ventured to go to work without some sort of jacket or jumper. Usually I manage to on most days from June to September - not this year. I'm hoping for an Indian summer. There is something so delicious about that particular British weather phenomenon.

I finished reading 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' by Winifred Watson now of course released as a film. It's very much a Cinderella type story but the characterisation is excellent. Miss Pettigrew - almost down and out governess - rejoicing in the unlikely Christian name of Guinevere - must get another job or . . . . She is given two addresses - Miss LaFosse who wants a governess for two children, and another lady who wants a maid. Miss Pettigrew opts for Miss LaFosse. But the situation is not what it seems and she is introduced to the glamorous and exciting world of the night club singer and her friends. In the space of one day she finds her life changing - for the better -as she realises she is appreciated and valued for herself. The dialogue is admirably theatrical and I'm sure it will make an excellent film, provided it is viewed as the period piece it obviously is. The book was written in the 1930s and was very popular in its day, disappearing into obscurity only to be resurrected by the publishers Persephone, who specialise in reviving forgotten 20th century classics. It's a quick read as there is a great deal of dialogue and I found it an uplifting book depending for its resolution on the basic good in humanity.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Fish and chips anyone?

I've just read this heartwarming story from the Mail Online -
A couple in their 70s have used their free bus passes to travel from Bristol to Weston Super Mare every day for the last 10 years to eat a fish and chip lunch and walk in excess of 6 miles. They started doing this after the man had a heart attack and was told to get more exercise. He's lost 7st in 10 years and is healthy now.

The comments make interesting reading as a lot of them are very negative condemning them for eating fish and chips every day and for doing the same thing day in day out. Some obviously hadn't read the story as they comment on the effect of driving that far each day. They went on the bus so no effect on the environment as the bus would have gone there anyway. It's amazing how people commenting can't see they walk off the energy contained in the fish and chips. Fish is good for your health and everyone needs some carbohydrates and fats. It just shows how many people don't understand what food is basically for - to give you energy. If you then burn that energy you won't put on weight.

Many people commenting seemed not to know routine is actually good for you. They also seem to have completely missed the point that even if you walk in the same place every day you will still see something new - meet different people etc. They're getting exercise and they're not sitting at home staring at four walls. Good luck to them. I hope I'm that fit when I'm their age.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Rape victims responsible for the crime?

I was shocked by the reduction to compensation paid to rape victims if they were drunk at the time. My first reaction was how dare they make the victim responsible for the crime? On reflection I can see where they're coming from. Which may sound equally horrifying.

I could live with the idea provided it was applied to ALL crimes. For example - if you're silly enough to walk down a street late at night carrying an expensive laptop and wearing a Rolex watch whilst making a mobile phone call and you are mugged - then you should be held partly responsible and your compensation reduced accordingly. Get drunk with your mates on a Saturday night and end up seriously assaulted - then you're partly responsible. I wonder whether it does work like that? I suspect not. If it did then I could live with the idea a drunken rape victim might be partly culpable.

On the other hand, if you are raped by a stranger and whether you are male or female, I cannot see how you can be held responsible for the criminal's actions. It's almost like giving people permission to commit crimes if the victims are all drunk. He asked for it, your honour, he couldn't look after his phone properly because he was drunk so I took it off him. Absolute discharge - the victim asked for it - next! No I don't think it's likely.

Rape victims have always been treated differently - by the way I favour anonymity for both victim AND accused - I don't think it's fair as it is. I think the reasons for holding any rape victim partially responsible for her crime goes back to the biblical idea of Eve tempting Adam and therefore being responsible for the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In saying rape victims are partially responsible we are no better than fundamental Islam which decrees that the woman is always at fault and must be stoned to drive the demons out of her. Maybe in Britain we ought to give this some thought.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Having it all

I was unsurprised, but disappointed, by the widely publicised report this week - written by a woman - stating women can't have it all without harming family life. So why is it that men CAN have it all - i.e children and a high flying career? Men - see the Fathers4Justice campaign - would have us believe men are just as good at bringing up children as women and should have equal rights in custody battles. So why pillory women for the breakdown in family life?

It seems to me that a single woman bringing up children is condemned if she lives on benefits whilst bringing up children. A man in the same situation who gives up his job to live off the state whilst bringing up children is regarded as a hero - look how well he's managing and how well behaved the children are. If a single mother manages to juggle everything and hold down her job so that she is not dependent on state handouts she is equally vilified for not spending quality time with her children and potentially condemning them to a life of crime and delinquency.

As I don't have children I suppose I shouldn't really comment but I do have caring responsibilities which is just as much a battle ground for double standards. I wonder how many men whose aged parents live with them, give up work to run the household and look after said parents? Very few I should think because it always works out that their wives give up their jobs to look after in-laws - your job is so much less well paid than mine dear.

Have things really moved on? I don't think so. It still seems very similar to when Florence Nightingale was writing in the nineteenth century. Most people would not think of her as an advocate for women's rights. I came across a work of hers 'Cassandra' when I was doing an Open University course in 1996. I was sitting at my dining table at 6.00am one morning reading extracts from it about how if a woman wanted to achieve anything in her life she needed to either get up earlier than the rest of her family or go to bed later. I felt like shrieking as I recognised the same dynamic in operation in the 20th century. Much of what she writes in 'Cassandra' is still relevant today.

Florence herself was quite canny and apart from her trips to the Crimea developed a reputation for ill health and virtually took to her bed. From there she wrote to influential people on all manner of subjects and studied parliamentary papers and reports. She became an unsung power behind the throne. She realised that to get any time to herself for her own work she needed to abdicate from the job of running a household. Illness being an acceptable way out of it - she became ill. Sensible lady.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Nearly the weekend

It's Thursday and nearly the weekend. That makes me sound as though I live for the weekends - which I don't. I try and enjoy, or at least participate in, the rest of my life as well. This week seems to have been incredibly long.

Work is getting even more fraught for some people - I think I'm actually rising above it at last. I was extremely outspoken in a general meeting the other day to one of the higher ups - fortunately not one in my own management chain. He was basically talking rubbish and seemed to expect it would make everyone feel better but we've got way past platitudes and he should have understood that.

Saying things about rationalising office space and cutting costs and carefully avoiding saying anything about cutting jobs. Well I'm sorry but achieving the first two will naturally include the third and we know there are still more jobs to go, so trying to avoid mentioning it is stupid. In the end he did agree with me. The powers that be seem to have just looked at maps to see which places we could all reasonably be asked to get to and have failed dismally to take into account what happens on the ground in rural areas.

My own immediate managers are being supportive and not trying to frighten anyone into doing something they don't want. This is not the case with other people in the office - more's the pity. really they're asking us to make choices about our future when we have only a very small part of the information we need to make an informed decision. Something which I did point out.

I'd best not say any more I suppose but at least all the above could probably apply to any large organisation trying to re-structure. When all's said and done it's only work - there are other far more important things in life.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Competitive reading

Is there a new trend out there? Or is this an old trend under a new title? I'm referring to the various reading challenges I keep coming across. dovegreyreader is currently doing around the world in 80 books and also the Man Booker Long List. Then there are various reading challenges mentioned on the mysterybookshelf

I can't decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. I can't see reading as a competitive sport myself but maybe some people like it. I always have plenty of books I want to read but I suppose if you're trying to decide what to read next it could be useful. Why read things you actually have no interest in just for the sake of reading a particular category or author? Or is this a case of me being a grumpy old woman? Answers on a post card please.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Alison Joseph and work

I finished reading Alison Joseph's 'A dark and Sinful Death' and very good it was too. I didn't guess what was going on, let alone work it out until the last 50 pages. A gripping story full of darkness, seething passions and feuds. Not as melodramatic as it sounds. Sister Agnes is still struggling with her vocation - especially with the vow of obedience. She is teaching French to convent schoolgirls in the dour moors of West Yorkshire around Leeds and Bradford. The moors feature heavily in the story as does a woollen mill where many of the characters work. I particularly liked Sister Philomena the redoubtable headmistress who speaks like a very old fashioned county type and yet understands what's going on without apparently being told. Like all good leaders she has eyes in the back of her head. The there's Nina who works at the mill - a very determined and funny lady who wants to make the best of herself and her life. The book had me in tears before the end as the family feuds gradually worked themselves to some sort of resolution. Excellent. I am savouring this series and reading them at intervals.

Work is going from crisis to crisis with people falling out with one another. But someone who has been bending my ear rather a lot bought me a bar of chocolate - a large one - because he felt I deserved some sort of reward for keeping people reasonably sane and generally behaving above and beyond the call of duty. Aw shucks! I was very touched by the thought. This person did go on to say that all the staff forgot that absorbing all the aggro and calming people down and staying sane myself must be taking it out of me. Yes it does, and it's nice that someone does recognise it. I had to do this a lot in the job I had up until 2005 and I'm glad I've not lost the ability. But it is tiring - I've been going to sleep remarkably early these last few nights.


I have since just after 7.00 - it's now 10.40am - mopped the floors downstairs, stripped one bed, made two breakfasts, sorted out the cat, sorted all the rubbish and put it out, put my shopping away which was delivered by Mr Tesco, written this post, read my e-mails, surfed the internet etc. etc.