Tuesday, 26 October 2004

neither capitalist nor Communist

"Our revolution is neither capitalist nor Communist ... Capitalism sacrifices the human being; Communism, with its totalitarian conceptions, sacrifices human rights."

- Fidel Castro, in a speech made on May 21 1959 (four months after becoming leader of Cuba), quoted in a Guardian book review.

social engineering

Another Guardian article, by Clare Sambrook. 'Burger-munchers need not apply: Oxbridge condemns 'social engineering' - but not when the aim of it is to keep people like me out.'

'... Back in my college days, 20 years ago, the term "social engineering" struck my untuned ear as exactly what Cambridge was doing: encouraging rich parents to buy children of sometimes modest talents an unfair advantage in the world.'

fantasy located in real landscape

A Guardian article on Alan Garner; interesting the extent to which he set myth in a real local landscape.

I read someone long ago making an interesting point about how children might read stories differently depending on where they lived. So many books are at least partly set in London; so to a child in London, their real world is a place where magical and unexpected things might happen - Peruvian bears turn up in Paddington station and live in a terrace, Wombles live in Wimbledon Common, Harry Potter shops for magic items and catches trains, and so on. To a boy growing up in the Scottish highlands, say, such stories are something which happen somewhere else in places which might as well be fictional, so little do they relate to his experience.

I remember as a boy seeing (but never reading) a book by Joan Aiken set in a place I assumed she'd made up and given a ridiculous fictional name to: it was Black Hearts in Battersea.

I remember coming into London on a coach for the first time and seeing a sign for Cricklewood, and thinking, That's where the Goodies live. The first months in London were full of such resonances.

Freedom for Tooting!

roast beef and yorkshire pudding

Walkers have introduced a 'Sunday lunch' range of crisps - including roast beef and yorkshire pudding, which I had a bag of the other day. The two striking things about them were just how much they really did taste of roast beef and yorkshire pudding, and just how not nice it was to be eating crisps that tasted of roast beef and, particularly, yorkshire pudding.

Monday, 25 October 2004

fagin's children

An interesting Guardian book review. 'Artful dodgers: Judith Flanders on Jeannie Duckworth's account of criminal youth in Victorian England, Fagin's Children.'

stoppard and pinter

I remember someone reviewing (in the Guardian, doubtless) two books of interviews, one with Tom Stoppard, the other with Harold Pinter. Those two are sometimes criticised for writing in a way no one speaks - dense, well-constructed prose, and fractured pause-ridden half sentences, respectively - but our reviewer found that both spoke exactly the way they wrote.


My liking for things found in books explains why I like the Found website, though they deal mostly in stuff found on the ground.

Friday, 22 October 2004

none to call me Charley now

'Poor Norris has been lying dying for now almost a week .... By this time I hope it is all over with him. In him I have a loss the world cannot make up. He was my friend and my father’s friend all the life I can remember. I seem to have made foolish friendships ever since. Those are friendships which outlive a second generation. Old as I am waxing, in his eyes I was still the child he first knew me. To the last he called me Charley. I have none to call me Charley now.'

From a letter - written at Colebrook Row, Islington, Saturday January 20, 1827 - from Charles Lamb to Crabb Robinson. In English Letters of the 18th Century, James Aitken (Ed); Pelican, 1946, p175

Tuesday, 19 October 2004


I like finding things in secondhand books and library books.

I got Jimmy Corrigan - The Smartest Kid on Earth out of the library yesterday (a cartoon novel which, as the sticker on the cover says, was 'inexplicably bestowed the Guardian First Book Award 2001').

Just over halfway through it was a 'good luck' card ('Any way you look at it, you're wished the very best'). The message reads
'Dear Nnenna
'Your Mum told me the good news this morning.
'I'm so pleased for you, I knew there would be a job for you. All I can say now is don't go and spend your first months salery all at once (HA HA)
'Love Angela. xx'

I've never bought a book just for what was inside it, but I think I have moved something from another book into a book I was buying.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Marc Almond accident

On the way to church last night we passed the site of an accident; it looked like a crash between a car and a two-wheeler. It was, and Marc Almond was on the back of the motorbike.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

lucky shopping in Shrewsbury, and lists

Last time we were in Shrewsbury I had a quick trawl of charity shops and second-hand bookshops. I bought two things.

One was the other Beatles covers Mojo cover CD - they had about a dozen CDs, no other cover CDs, and the one they had was the one I didn't have. Impressive.

The other was Charlie Brown No 44 (Coronet Books) - the only CB they had, and one of only two CBs I didn't have below No 67.

Yes, I carry with me a list of the CBs I don't have (42, 67, 69-71, 73, 75+, since you ask). And your point is?

It's not like I carry a list of Beatles songs of which I don't own cover versions. Oh no. Because trying to get cover versions of every Beatles song, of which there are many, would be mad. I assure you, no such list currently exists.

PS John commented, 'There's a very angry man in the new issue of Mojo complaining about his subscription and the Beatles CD specifically. I'm slightly taken aback by your Charlie Brown revelation.'

Monday, 11 October 2004

our holiday

- a weekend in Thurcaston with the Gilmours.
- Mon-Fri in CenterParcs Whinfell Forest with the Sladeks.
- a weekend in Colwall with the assembled Watts.

CenterParcs a posher version of Butlins, in which you have to pay for everything. (Interestingly, they never seem to refer to an individual site as a CenterParc - it's always CenterParcs.) We drove along the A66 with hillscapes to our left, right and front, into a place from which you're clearly not meant to stray for your whole time there (and from which there were no views to remind you of the world beyond the forest site), which seemed a terrible waste. Really not our kind of place. But we had a good time there with our lodgemates. And who knows what parenthood will drive us to in the years to come.

We did stray one day, and went for a country walk in the wind and the rain. We went to Haweswater, tempted by an RSPB symbol on the map, but there was nothing there that we spotted. According to this, it's the only place you can see golden eagles in England. It looks from online sources like our little walk took us up the start of the Gatesgarth Pass.

The weekends were good too (another ascent, up a dry but windy British Camp). But good to get back to our own beds last night.

Apart from food, the only thing we bought the whole time was a small ball. Cheapskates.