Tuesday, 15 May 2018


I finished Slam by Nick Hornby this evening, and enjoyed it, as I've broadly enjoyed all his books. I like the way he writes, and they always go down so smoothly and quickly, they're a pleasure to read. I think it was probably written for a teenage audience, but it's not very different in style from the others, with a fairly likeable and eloquent but emotionally immature/uninsightful male protagonist. The one he wrote after this - Juliet, Naked - was perhaps the one I was least impressed with, and is the one I'd read most recently. The only novel I haven't read of his now is the most recent, Funny Girl, which I own; apart from that it's just the most recent couple of collections of magazine columns I haven't read.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

emotionally weird

Today I finished reading Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird. I liked bits of it, but it once again proved the sometime-unwisdom of my scheme of going back to read chronologically from the start the other books by the author of a book I've really enjoyed, because I haven't really enjoyed any of her first three novels, which I've now read since reading Case Histories. I'm pretty doubtful that I'd have persevered and got to Case Histories if I'd started reading them from the start.

Friday, 11 May 2018

bohemian rhapsody

I think Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is great, *and* I think the lyrics are perfectly clear and straightforward in the story they tell. #unpopularopinions

lady windermere's fan

On Saturday 7th April we went to the Vaudeville Theatre to see the matinee of Lady Windermere's Fan - the last day of it. We all enjoyed it.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

john owen on truth and experience

At one point [in his only book on prayer, John] Owen lays down a principle about the relationship of truth to experience. He writes: 'Where light leaves the affections behind, it ends in formality or atheism; where affections outrun light they sink into the bog of superstition, doting on images and pictures or the like.'

By 'light' Owen means our knowledge of right teaching or doctrine. Our doctrinal and biblical knowledge cannot 'leave the affections behind.' If we believe with our minds that God is holy, we must also come to find his holiness enjoyable and satisfying just to praise it. If we believe the great God of the universe really loves us, it should make us emotionally unshakable in the face of criticism, suffering, and death. In short, we must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity - that is, in name only - and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. Owen believes that Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.

- Tim Keller, Prayer, p180 in my Hodder paperback (one obvious misprint corrected).

That 'or atheism' took me by surprise, but the insight hits me strongly.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018


On Sunday I tweeted, 'Remembering the day in Barcelona when I had the map and my companions eventually realised I was choosing the shady pavement every time. #hot'. (It was hot on Sunday, but not as hot as Monday.)

Monday, 7 May 2018

duffy and adele

2008 saw the release of debut albums by the not-dissimilar Duffy (Rockferry) and Adele (19). I wonder what things led to Adele bestriding the world and Duffy (who I preferred) disappearing?

the perfect date

I fully endorse this important message from Miss Rhode Island.

kirkdale books

I go down to Kirkdale Books a couple of times a year: I read a secondhand book for an hour on a bus, I buy some more secondhand books, then read a secondhand book for an hour on a bus on the way back. It struck me last time, in April, that it is a virtual recreation of Saturday afternoons of my youth, going to Stornoway on the bus to buy secondhand books at the charity sale of work in the town hall.

kenwood house

Found the best spot on Hampstead Heath to spend time on a horrible (hot, sunny) bank holiday - lovely cool and shady Kenwood House (another place I'd never been in all my time in London, so nice to get there at last - well worth a visit, and free).

As tipped by Tanja, my favourite of the fine art collection was Anne Cecil's slashed bridesmaid dress c1615. (Her sister Diana in same/similar dress was on loan to Zurich, so we didn't see the pair.)

Sunday, 6 May 2018

dr strange

Maisie and I watched Dr Strange on Saturday afternoon, while Bethan was seeing Harold and Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre. It was okay, but more action and CGI than I like, and the film as a whole felt like it was just setting up a character for future films - there wasn't enough in it of a film satisfying in its own right, even with a number of actors in it who I usually enjoy but there wasn't much acting for them to do.

morris folk choir cd - third recording session

Last Saturday we had our third and final recording session for the Morris Folk Choir CD, which went pretty well (better than I'd expected, I'd have to say).

Saturday, 5 May 2018


On Thursday I tweeted, 'You undermine your case when you overstate it. #evergreensubtweet'.

Then not long later, 'A search on the #evergreensubtweet hashtag is rather entertaining, it turns out.'

Other tweets I found with that hashtag included
'What a load of nonsense. #evergreensubtweet',
'Smart people can be extraordinarily stupid sometimes. #EvergreenSubtweet',
'Why is he everywhere? Is there no respite? #evergreensubtweet'
and 'Nobody cares, dude. #evergreensubtweet'

'I liked the premise...'

I'm starting to realise how often my view of a disappointing book is 'I liked the premise but not the execution'.

never mind the quality, feel the width

I once felt the fake fur coat collar of a female friend without thinking through the underlying geography. I blushed mightily.

turbulence and melancholy

'Back when I was a youth I only wanted to play, in turbulent & melancholy fashion, Rachmaninoff & Debussy. And my piano teacher said: the time will come when life is all turbulence & melancholy, & what you will want is Bach, to restore order. She was right!'
- Sarah Perry, Twitter, 20 April 2018


I've had many depressing communications from readers, but among the worst were the ones outraged at my stupidity when I wrote in an editorial that all I knew about the year 1852 was this little rhyme: 'In eighteen hundred and fifty-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.'

april books

A pile of the books I finished in April. A pile of the book I bought and read in April. A pile of the rest of the books I bought in April. Clearly I imagine I am going to live forever.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

the melrose quartet at the goose is out

Last Friday evening I went to see The Melrose Quartet at The Goose Is Out in Nunhead, and they were as excellent as I'd been led to believe they would be. They were supported by Sandtimer and Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, who were both also pretty good. An evening of harmony singing.

the forever war

Last Thursday I finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. It was okay, with some interesting ideas, but a bit shapeless, and I don't feel any desire to read any more of his books. If I hadn't known that it drew a lot on the experience of the Vietnam War, I'd have guessed.