Thursday, December 28, 2006
You may be wondering why you suddenly have a picture of shrubbery but these are redundant Christmas trees. It's a council drop-off point at the top end of Brunswick Square. Just three days after Christmas these struck me as incredibly wasteful.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I have I think named all of London's statues that ever receive any attention. The others are chiefly statesmen, soldiers and kings, and may be said hardly to exist...
This, though far from complete, may be called a good list; and I doubt if there are many Londoners who could have supplied from memory half of it.
I myself wondered if those mentioned - all 52 listed between the first quotation and the second - still exist one hundred years on and are still easily accessible to the public. It's quite feasible that some fell foul of the Second World War, some have been left to rot and some may be shut off from public view - I'm guessing that may be the case for "Richard Coeur-de-Lion, splendidly warlike, on his horse, by the House of Lords."
Tomorrow sees the start of my latest London walking adventure. I have rearranged the statues into a vaguely logical walking order starting at the Royal Exchange and finishing in Chelsea by way of Islington Green and Camden. Sir Hugh Myddleton and Cobden have annoyed me somewhat by taking me too far north and probably ending my hopes of achieving this in a day; a day and a half if not two now looks more likely.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I fell into special needs teaching. I'm not really sure how. I've always thought you have to be creative with kids and as much as we want them simply to do what we want them to when we say it just ain't gonna happen all the time.
A boy with significant problems was moved into my tutor group (against my better judgement).
I want him to sit at the table like everyone else. He takes a chair to the back wall and does his best to curl up underneath it. I explain to everyone else what to do and go to join him with my own chair.
“Miss, what are you doing?”
“I'm not sure. The floor's cold, don't you think?”
“But, what are you doing?”
“Seeing the world from your angle?”
“For God's sake. There's something wrong with you.” He says with disgust. He takes his chair to the table and sits down.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Having bought tickets to watch Jo Brand quite some time ago I am on their mailing list. I like the idea of supporting the local arts. And then I open the latest brochure.
I mean, what do I go for? An Audience with Jimmy Greaves in February or Chas and Dave in March?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Photo from BBC website
Sky goes black in a blink. The heavens open. Hailstones plummet. The wind roars and the children stampede screaming into the building. I do not stop them. Phenomenal.
And we are in east London. We can only imagine what it was like in the north west. Scary.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
C: Who are we buying for? Family and Pat?
C: Don't you think he'd like a raunchy calender?
E: Yes, but he's certainly not getting one from me.
C: Hang on... Don't I get a say in this?
Saturday, December 02, 2006
The countdown has officially begun. It should of course have started yesterday but I'd forgotten about the advent calendar sat on the kitchen table under a pile of papers. Fairtrade Divine chocolate from Oxfam.
1. It all started in the Holy Land about 2000 years ago.
2. A young woman named Mary lived Nazareth.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Snow. Orhan Pamuk.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Time almost stopped as she sat on the kerb and I stood rooted to the spot. She was so close and so composed. I thought I was going to burst with amazement. I moved thinking she would fly away. She didn't. I left looking over my shoulder wondering if I was hallucinating. It made my day.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I found the 'ceremony' fainting bewildering and embarrassing. We had to be upstanding for the President and his guests while they made their way to the top table accompanied by a slow hand clap. Grace took me totally by surprise. I was upstanding for the toast to the Queen but kept my mouth firmly shut and failed to take a swig of my wine. I toasted 'the club' and was again confused by the toast to 'the ladies and their guests.' I was clearly there with C. not the other way around. The most daring thing I did all night was point out we weren't married so my place name was wrong. Emma Jones! Never!
The food was stuck in the seventies (more details here) and the entertainment was keen on the fifties. I have to say they could sing and were just about right given the mix of people in the (very draughty) hall. I surprised quite a few as I joined in with what was termed the London medley - Henry the Eighth I am, Knees up Muvver Brown and the like. Memories of family shindigs on New Year's Eve in Bethnal Green and Hackney came flooding back.
On the way there C. pointed out we hadn't brought a bag for the three trophies. It got worse when we realised he was actually receiving six - three individuals and three perpetuals he would return next year. Someone found us a flat fruit box which we covered with the duvet we won in the raffle so no-one mugged us on the two mile walk home.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
“Citizens of this country will be absolutely appalled” crowed Paula Lawton, resident of Elgin Crescent 'a sweep of millionaires' houses in Kensington', in response to a High Court decision which agreed that a father and his five-year old son had played football together in the road's private gardens. Lawton argued this turned the garden into a recreation ground. West London magistrates had previously thrown out the private prosecution as two people couldn't play football – you need a team. The High Court judges would not, however, allow a retrial as this would be “inappropriate.” (Guardian).
Well, I am “absolutely appalled” - by this woman's ridiculous behaviour. I'm not convinced I know quite how to define a real world but she's certainly not living in one. Perhaps she'd like to stop by here one day. We regularly have groups of 10 to 20 teenagers playing football outside our home. Funnily enough I see this as an entirely normal part of growing up. It means that they aren't hanging around bored causing trouble elsewhere.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Yes, for those of you who don't live in the capital the public transport system was knackered this morning. But don't worry it'll be first class for the Olympics. Sod those of us who use it every day.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The story that has stayed in my mind was the call to direct action by the environment minister, Ben Bradshaw:
While saying he would like to see targets for waste reduction spelled out in and included in annual reports, Mr Bradshaw also urged shoppers to force the grocers to move faster by taking direct action. After paying for their goods, shoppers should remove "excessive and unnecessary" wrappers and leave them behind. (Guardian. Tuesday, 14 November).
This probably struck a chord as my mum is obsessed by cucumbers in plastic jackets. She hates them. If she sees a cucumber in its natural state she buys it (whether or not she needs it). I've lost count of the times I've been sent home with half a cue.
Eager to find out what the supermarkets thought of Bradshaw's plan three Guardian journalists were sent to find out. In summary:
Sainsbury's: threatens to call the manager.
Waitrose: comments that Bradshaw doesn't have to work behind a till.
M&S: helps remove the packaging and offers to put it in the bin.
Tesco: seems prepared and takes the packaging.
Morrisons: puts all the packaging into a plastic bag frantically.
Asda: reacts as if it is a perfectly normal thing to do.
My response? To remind myself to avoid supermarkets altogether. Packaging is a small part of a much bigger problem. After checking the internet for Sunday Farmer's Markets in London I set off for Marylebone on the tube. (The journey there and back was sufficient for me to read and thoroughly enjoy Weedon's Diary of a Nobody).
Smaller than I perhaps expected the market (sited on a car park; wonderful) was not a disappointment. My bags came home loaded with a wonderful array of fresh, seasonal vegetables bought from the people who grew them. I asked the man on the potato stall what he recommended for mash. Did I want “continental mash...smooth and creamy” or “Irish/English mash...fluffy and floury”? Plumping for the latter I came away with a bag of Lady Balfour. “Named after the founder of the Soil Association.”
The apple and almond tart I bought from Pâtisserie Valérie on Marylebone High Street was exquisite and worth a return trip all on its own.
To find a farmers' market in London click here. For the rest of the country here.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
"We go in the Barking Greek a lot...The place opposite the station. They have music in the corner. They're a quartet or a duo."
"Well, are there two or four of them?"
She was plucking her eyebrows.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I'm more than happy to share tables if needs must (Cafe Lido Great Castle Street springs immediately to mind) but I was the only customer in a place that seats about 40.
I was rescued by the Middle Son (there are three I know of; never present on the same evening) who suggested rather forcefully he might like to sit somewhere else (where he had to contort himself into a strange position to even glance at me). Middle Son then pondered the point that very few women eat out on their own (and should I care a fig (I don't) he'd have made me feel like the weirdo).
Woo Sang. Lisle Street. Looks dilapidated. Straightforward, cheap and cheerful food with good service. £4.50 for a huge plate of food and an orange juice. Beats Burger King hands down for a quick fix.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Man abuses train driver as she closes the doors on a tube that's terminating.
She sounds two sharp toots on the horn as she pulls away.
He screams "Bollocks."
We all laugh.
He abuses everyone on the platform.
I am a "f**king four-eyed c**t" on the way down the platform and a "frizzy c**t" on the return leg.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I miss the spontaneity of the broadcasts on public transport. Hearing the same message on a loop across the entire system can be intensely irritating and on occasion I'm sure I've continued rehearsing it in my sleep. Pre-recorded announcements seem to be available at the flick of a switch so I'm always glad to hear someone winging it.
7.19am. West Ham. 'Would all passengers please note that dogs should not be taken on moving stairs. They should be taken on the normal stairs. Animals on escalators can be dangerous.'
(I'm just disappointed I missed the dog. Probably some tiny, insignificant little thing; still, I don't know the truth. I'm picturing a majestic Great Dane).
'Morning in Arizona'. Iain Sinclair. City of Disappearances.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Time changes: some London scenes do not (as I discovered today).
Monday, November 06, 2006
Inappropriate discussion of body parts.
"Inappropriate timing or inappropriate body parts?" I ask smiling.
He reels in mock horror. "Breasts can never be inappropriate, miss."
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I think *(Asterisk) is a clear winner here - best sunset last night and also best sunrise this morning. (In the UK at least). Shep, who I think started all this, is clearly in the wrong part of the country. I may have had the worst sunset but I think my sunrise is acceptable.
Pickled Olives on the other side of the water is half-way there. As is From a Lofty Perch.
Tanya has a sunrise that was definitely worth getting up for and Candy Minx has joined us too.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
I don't watch the weather bulletins. I wouldn't say they are intentionally mendacious but they're often wildly inaccurate. I rely on looking out the window when I get up (which in itself can be problematical). Wednesday evening, however, I caught a weather person proclaiming blue skies and sunshine for yesterday. Combined with my new car (just five years old) I didn't need any more persuading to head for the coast.
End of October. Aldeburgh beach. Fish and Chips. Sunshine. A sublime moment.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I can trace my indifference to royal families back to the last year of junior school. I'd just battered Joanne Pierce (not her real name) and had received a proper telling off from the Head. I was fuming and she (Joanne) was still crying. I thought her weak and stupid and she probably thought I was some horrible bully. We were told to make up. I refused. In an attempt to get us talking the school secretary took us into the library and said she had a secret letter to show us. It turned out to be from the Queen congratulating the school on its forthcoming centenary. Joanne Pierce started swooning and fainting at this piece of news. I, on the other hand, demanded to know “What's so special about the Queen?”
A few years on, during my A-levels, I became fascinated by another royal family. French - and long gone – Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (hardly surprising given I was studying French and history). I honed my essay-writing skills analysing the causes and consequences of the French Revolution and by the time I reached uni was discoursing on Du Contrat Social in French no less.
So, it was with scepticism that I agreed to see Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette with my mum. She'd seen photos of the costumes and decided this was a 'must-see'.
The film was a visual feast. There's no end to the words to describe the costumes, the food, the scenery. Sumptuous, exquisite, magnificent. Fabulous, luxurious, extravagant. (“How much do you think that cost to make?” mum whispered at the end).
I'm sure I'm not the only person to comment, however, that this is a costume drama without much drama. Marie Antoinette leaves Austria to be married to the Dauphin at the age of 14. They become King and Queen of France at a young age. He goes hunting and plays with locks. She drinks, eats and spends a tremendous amount of money on clothes. The mob appear at the very end (no mention of the trouble brewing through the rest of the film) but unfortunately we do not see Kirsten Dunst or Jason Schwartzman lose their heads.
This would have been poetic justice. Coppola may argue that she intentionally created a King and Queen who did not have the authority or gravitas of a king or queen. (Louis moans “We are too young to rule!”). What we end up with are two vapid, superficial characters dressed in authentic 18th century finery with modern American accents engaging in banal 21st century dialogue. (Think spoilt brat dressing up for a laugh; Paris Hilton would have done just as well). Add to this music from Mozart to New Wave and you can easily see how critics have liberally employed two words: contradiction and anachronism.
Ultimately, Marie Antoinette, looks good but lacks depth of any kind.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last night a group of women moved down the platform. Their bags suggested they had just been to some kind of beauty trade fair. One was sporting a huge pass with the word MODEL splashed in big, bold letters across the middle. I shook my head thinking sad cow.
The Irish drunk who had already passed me with his loyal and obedient hound took a slightly different approach. "You fucking need that, love. Never would've guessed otherwise. Fucking model!"
Sunday, October 15, 2006
We had a rather unexpected pleasure watching a bright yellow, forty-eight tonne* steamroller take off and gently fly. To see such a hulk of machinery glide through the air with such ease and grace was actually amazing. The fifteen or so people watching burst into spontaneous applause as the steamroller touched back down without so much as a bump. It's outside the Chelsea Art College next to Tate Britain. It's fun and free!
The Holbein costs a tenner. A price worth paying we agreed. The portraits for which Holbein is best known are superb. Oil on oak in his hands is certainly something. The colours, the light and shade, the richness and detail all combine to create such wonderful life-like portraits. In our own amateurish way we decided the ultramarine background definitely had a big part to play.
We weren't without our criticisms (one piece looked truly awful) and silly comments - "It looks like it must have been reduced on a photocopier" while studiously staring at an intricate sketch in miniature and G's remark that the gold baton being held by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, looked "like a snooker cue."
We were also quite disappointed to discover Anne of Cleves didn't look like a moose. As the accompanying notes point out she seems quite attractive to the modern eye.
A fabulous exhibition - you've got until 7 January 2007 to see it.
*ok, maybe 48-tonnes combined with the counter-balance weights etc.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
"I think he's still an MP."
Without a shadow of doubt or moment of hesitation I replied "Tony Banks. Thought he looked familiar."
By the time we'd reached Long Acre I was having a rethink. "Isn't he dead?"
The answer to that question, dear reader, is yes.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Before today I have never ventured into the church yard of St Anne's. It's a refuge for winos and the atmosphere, to me at least, has always seemed ominous and oppressive. This impression was reinforced by reading Ackroyd's Hawksmoor earlier in the year:
They [the Settlement of Sturdy Beggars] are a Society in Miniature, and will nurse up a brood of Beggars from Generation to Generation even until the World's End. And their place is next to my Church: they are the Pattern of Humane Life, for others are but one Step away from their Condition, and they acknowledge that the beginning and end of all Flesh is but Torment and Shaddowe.
Eerie. I took the plunge today taking a deep breath as I stepped through the gateway. I've survived to tell the tale.
Before turning back to this...
I was rained on, thundered on, rained on, lit up by lightening and rained on some more. The sun came out again while I was on the train back from Limehouse but not surprisingly disappeared the moment I stepped off the train. I got rained on some more.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
So, I was surprised to find him sat on the sofa, tense, with the telephone clamped to his ear and exclaiming about "15 minutes" and "cuts you off" when I got in from work Wednesday.
There is one other thing about which he cares deeply and that is the television. He tolerates NTL with many a moan as we cannot get a signal from Sky. Wednesday was the day NTL went digital with Telewest. The switchover was made and C. was left with no television channels.
I managed not to giggle which is what I really wanted to do and took myself off to the kitchen. I was dealing with a desperate man on an issue I just cannot understand. I gave up trying to find anything worth watching a good few years back. I kept telling myself it was on a par with someone burning all my books.
Failing to get through to anyone at all Wednesday night (I did try once and was apoplectic after waiting for a lifetime to get an "Oh, dear. We seem to be very busy. Why don't you call back later?" and being cut off) C. spoke to someone Thursday and was told it would be up and running Saturday (with luck). Oooh. That's a long time with no sports coverage.
C. rang me at about 6.50am Friday to tell me he'd just picked up the Metro and "they're really taking the piss." NTL had taken out advertising on the front, back and inside covers* proclaiming their wonderful service. Salt and wounds come to mind.
*Photos to follow when blogger actually lets me add them.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
You always used to have fruit in your office miss. Do you remember when you gave me the hairy apple?
I think you mean a peach but I don't buy them. I prefer nectarines. Are you sure it was me?
You're the only person what tries to make me eat fruit and I know what a peach is.
[5 minutes pass]
Like a plum, miss. But a different colour and hairy.
[I laugh]. Hairy apple! Do you mean an apricot?
Yeah. [Looking bashful]. It was disgusting. No point remembering the name.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
"Miss, miss. There's a policeman on the phone. I think he said he's a detective."
Six months ago I was sexually assaulted on the tube. I was told today that, in effect, the case has been closed. I think I'd worked that out for myself. Three phone calls in all that time and apologies on each occasion for allowing the file to languish kind of convinced me I wasn't top of the pile.
I have been surprisingly quiet listening to arguments about how our every move is being followed: CCTV, oyster cards. These are the two things I was led to believe could catch the perpetrator. The video footage is apparently crystal clear but he's not known to the police. The information from Transport for London is inconclusive.
I received a follow up email from the Indecency Unit thanking me for having reported the crime as if somehow I was doing them a favour. I'm wondering if it would have been less traumatic not to have bothered.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
For a better photo of the sun rising today from the west click here.
Just one thing - shouldn't we be taking the photos the other way around, Shep?
Close friend's dad when we were still at school.
Caroline. She hung herself just after I left for university. (My parents had to tell me of the death of three friends in the space of about ten days).
Alexandra. She made the tabloids. Died of skin cancer at the age of twenty-two. I watched her grow up. Our neighbour's daughter. Needless to say the tabloids made the tragedy worse for the family by exaggerating and fabricating.
I've mentioned just a few.
I remember at all of them railing against the ostensibly Christian service at the Crematorium. Finding it hard to cope with the perceived injustice. All young. Everything to live for. (Funerals are always fill of clichés and platitudes). Hating the harsh cruelties of life.
My aunt's funeral on Friday was so different. She was a committed Christian. District Commissioner for the Girl Guides. School Governor. Member of the PCC and an integral part of the Mothers' Union. The beauty and tranquility of the village church overwhelmed me. IThe first time I have been to a funeral where the vicar actually knew and loved the person about whom he was speaking.
The service was a reaffirmation of life. There was no sense of tragedy or injustice. Through the grief there was a genuine celebration of all that is positive about life. I'm still smiling now at the thought of my quirky, funny and perceptive aunt. I didn't need to go to Devon to remember those things. They will always be with me.
I went for those who are left. Peggy was one of seven siblings aged between 60 and 78. I imagine them all on a sheet of ice. It has become thinner over the years with different scares and illnesses – Peggy was overcoming the severe onset of Parkinson's on a daily basis – but no-one fell through. Until now. There's a hole in the ice that will spread and the others will follow. It really does scare me. I don't know my uncle but my other aunts I know so much better because they live in London. The biggest scare of all is my dad. He's always been there for me and one day I know that will change.
I tried to explain to C. last night but I couldn't really articulate what I wanted to say. I got annoyed and decided to open the new Granta laying on the kitchen table. Issue 95. The front cover shows a black and white photo of a dad at a table with his three children. Loved Ones. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Overheard on the 18.09 from Limehouse to Shoeburyness.
I 'ad to go to f***king Next to buy a pair of f***king shoes. We was well spannered last night and our shoes was shitted up. Some f***ing thieving pikey f***king nicked 'em, didn't they? F***ing pikey bastard! Four pairs we left in the porch. All f***ing jacked. Steve did his bollocks off. 'Ad to come to work in me suit and trainers. Felt like a right f***king dick on the train.
(He was wearing a pair of trousers, an off-white polo shirt and a grey zip-up cardigan. With shiny new shoes).
Sunday, September 17, 2006
"I'm going to tell 'er when she rings tonight. Get on the first plane 'ome, love."
"They've not bin bad 'ave, they?"
"Nah. Good as gold just I gotta work. It's 'ard looking after 'em as well. All the getting ready in the morning...after work. Too much."
The neighbour, a big black woman, laughs a deep belly laugh. "Welcome to the real world. Millions of women every day all over the world do that for years, mate, with no thanks. That's made me laugh, that."
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Here's one for any aspiring hobbits out there.
Next Monday, a nationwide hunt begins to find 20 suitably dumpy creatures to appear as extras in next year's West End production of The Lord of the Rings.
Applicants will face an X-Factor-style audition for the roles of Pippin, played by Billy Boyd in the big screen trilogy, and friends, where they will be required to sing two songs and display "hobbit-like tendencies".
According to a press release for the auditions:
"The producers are looking for male and female actors and singers, aged between 16-35, who must be under 5ft 7 in bare feet.
"Hairy toes and big feet are an advantage." Splendid!
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Cherie Blair comments on her broadcast for the government-funded channel Teachers' TV (all about her work as a human-rights lawyer; dazzlingly televisual apparently). The £3,000 she was paid probably helped encourage her enjoyment. (Observer).
I seem to remember being paid oh...umm...aah...absolutely nothing for the two programmes I appeared in.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Forgive me for feeling a little confused when it comes to fish.
The government recommends we eat 'at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish.' Yet, we are increasingly told not to eat this, that or the other species of fish due to declining stocks and damage to the ocean.
I also have my own personal issues to deal with here. I'm terrified by bones and am incredibly squeamish about taking any seafood out of its shell. (With the exception of prawns. I can even twist their heads off raw without shutting my eyes now). Obviously not helped by stories like this.
Why am I mentioning all this? Thanks to a reminder from City Slicker we passed through Hays Galleria Saturday morning as the Oyster and Seafood Fair was setting up. There was a quiet, purposeful atmosphere and faint whiff of the sea as crates were unloaded and wares artfully displayed.
Don't worry if you missed it – get yourself off to Billingsgate fish market – London's ancient, almost-daily fish fair. You do have to get up early but the experience is worth it.
Tuesday to Saturday 5.00am - 8.30am
Sunday 6.00am - 8.00am (only one shellfish merchant open - John Stockwell Ltd - Please telephone them prior to visit to ensure they are trading)
NB the market is closed on Tuesdays following a Bank Holiday Monday
Children and shopping trolleys are not allowed. Ball games are not permitted either.
Don't forget to check how sustainable the fish is before you buy: fishonline.org
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My bookshelves are not dodgy but the photo is. Blurry. Very blurry. I couldn't be doing with taking another and loading it up. It's at the end of the holiday photos. I don't have the patience to go through the whole thing again.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Sundays are for running. Saturday afternoons have always been sacrosanct during the football season. C. goes nowhere unless it is to actually watch the football. This year the fallow weeks were filled with bowls. As in bowling green and old people. He asked if I would go and watch if he made it to a final. I saw no reason not to agree.
He is universally adored as the baby of the club. In this his first season, he made it to three finals. And he won...er...three finals.
Unlike Shep I put very little thought into my holiday reading. I am ashamed to say that I simply went into a local chain store and picked up 3 for 2 offers from the nearest table. (This is unusual behaviour).
Ed Glinert's East End Chronicles is excellent. An already bustling area brought to life through events described in fascinating detail. Some of the stories are well-known, others much less so. I can't wait to read it all over again and start tramping the streets.
I'm never quite sure what to make of Paulo Coelho. I bought The Zahir because I liked the cover. Coelho makes some very perceptive comments and some of the ideas had me nodding in agreement. Others, however, made me cringe. Really cringe. I left it amongst the Mills and Boon stacked on a table in the apartment block. It was quickly snapped up.
I think it was at Hadleigh Castle that the Gardener said I should have been an anthropologist. (I constantly bombard him with my observations on people I've seen, things I've overheard or conversations I've had with total strangers). But the word anthropology scares me. It conjures up stereotypical images of African villages and the bizarre stories my friend G. relates to me every so often. (She shared a house with anthropology students at uni; never again). My opinion has been amended slightly thanks to Watching the English by Kate Fox. Had I been completing Doug's tag on books this would be the clear winner for the book you wish you'd written. It is superb. I think reading it abroad, surrounded by a certain type of English person, made it all the more poignant. It shows the English in all our painful glory.
Our apartments – very, very basic but very clean – were right on the beach. It is amazing to go to sleep and wake to the sound of the waves lapping the beach. Very therapeutic and an ideal setting, perhaps, to read The Sea by John Banville. A mesmerising novel about memory, grief and loss. I'm sure this too will become a favourite.
Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy turned out to be a must given I was totally surrounded by Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture in the resort of Kardamena. A very important book. I thought it would probably make me feel depressed but it actually made me angry. Women as sexual objects have not only become completely mainstream but the whole idea is touted as being empowering and liberating. It's a return to the dark ages. Everyone should read this book and act.
Given my mad dash to buy books and fling them in the suitcase I did very well. The Accidental by Ali Smith is another book that I loved. I smiled a lot while reading this. Poignant and dazzling. I wonder what it would be like to have an Amber descend and change my life.
Last but certainly not least was a collection of short stories. The Fahrenheit Twins expertly written by Michael Faber. Utterly compelling stories which also happen to be really quite disturbing. I readily identified with the quote from the Independent on Sunday on the back cover: 'I dread to think where Faber gets his inspiration from, but there's certainly no shortage of it in sight.'