Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas and New Year thoughts

We've had a very quiet Christmas (no great niece so no dawn raids or being submergied under wrapping paper) but it has been full of good food, wine and a great thankfulness to be with those closest to me after the recent bad weather.  And I'm very conscious that here in Nottingham I've been lucky not to be snowed in, stuck with the car somewhere and have plentiful supplies of food.

Over the holiday I've received cds to give me hours of pleasure, a book on breadmaking to extend what I can already do (never thought of building my own bread oven before) and some lovely smellies.  These days I look for experiences not products and I know I have hours of pleasure ahead of me.

I've also enjoyed some films and tv programmes.  One unexpected hit for me was The Nativity on BBC1.  Whilst I couldn't participate in the religious sentiments, the way they treated the story made far more sense to me than anything I was told in my church going youth.  The whole story came together for me with a vision of life for Mary.  Gripping.

Then we watched some DVDs including Nine with Daniel Day Lewis.  Not sure if I read the reviews when that came out but I wasn't expecting a musical extravaganza.  Loved it.

And to get some air we walked to our local canal.  I hadn't made it down there since the snow began but I was amazed to see it frozan over with a coating of snow on the top.  I've lived here for 14 years and have never seen it like that.  The ducks we found were huddled in some open water near a lock and some of the moorhens had migrated to a small stream leading from the canal which wasn't frozen over.

So a lovely time we had and looking back on this year I've been very blessed with loyal clients, interesting work and a widening circle of friends all round the world.

I'm looking forward to 2011; I'm lucky that some of my clients have already contacted me with future work.
I hope that 2011 brings you satisfactions and achievements as well as challenges and I wish you well.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Perfume; all you ever wanted to know

Just spent an hour researching one of my favourite subjects; perfume.  In my twenties I started trying and buying perfume and worked my way through the major perfume brands choosing favourites.  Then in the seventies and eighties I lost interest somewhat as perfumes stopped smelling the way I remembered them. 
It wasn't till later that I discovered they'd changed many of the formulae for the perfumes, partly because of EU regulations and partly because of cost. 

A couple of years ago I came across the indespensable guide for any serious perfume lover. 

Perfumes: the guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

If you want to know about perfume, its history and magic as well as the chemistry then this is the book for you.  Not only is it authoritative, it's fun to read with entries that make you laugh, but will also make you think about what perfume you're wearing and why.

My happy hour has resulted in a list of perfumes to try out after Christmas so I can extend furthe my library of perfumes.  Wonderful

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Candlestick Press Christmas pamphlet 2010

Just been to buy my edition of the pamphlet.  Poems are selected by Carol Ann Duffy and this second volume includes poets as various as Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Jennings and Moniza Alvi.  Available from Waterstones or visit for more information.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How does the turtle make progress

Just come across this great little story from one of the Indigenous Grandmothers,  Grandmother Mona Polacca, Hopi/Havasupai.

She talks about the turtle having to stick it's neck out when it wants to move ahead and points out that's what we need to do, rather than staying in our shell.

If you haven't come across the work of the Grandmothers, here's a link

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Campaign against library closures

I almost spoiled my breakfast this morning reading Kate Mosse's piece about library closures.  Of all the deliberate nastiness.  So as a former librarian I could as a Big Society volunteer go and issue books at my local library could I?

Well maybe, except we now have self-service machines installed.  I know this has been the trend in many academic libraries for years - my friends have the scars to prove how such a move is the thin end of the wedge in service provision.

My library is one of the original Carnegie libraries that made such a difference to the provision of libraries in this country.  So I'm not against private donations; the problem is these days they don't usually come with such vision.  And I also acknowledge that book provision has to be where readers need it and for some libraries are still too elitist.  But since school library provision is being squeezed at the same time, where would be the place for books and reading that had no  political bias, no private motives and no commercial profit needs.

Seems to me we already have the perfect solution.  But hey what do I know?  I only know that even coming from a home where books were welcomed, the library over the canal bridge opened up a world to me that I had no idea existed.  Even without the career in libraries, my life would have been so much poorer without being at the least a library user.

I've found the following site of author Alan Gibbons and signed up for his petition.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Do you understand critics?

This time of year depresses me when I read the lists of books recommended by people and realise I haven't read any of them. 

When I was in my twenties, I was like a sponge soaking up 'classic' after 'classic'.  Looking back I think now how bored I was with many of the books I read.  They seemed self indulgent, diffuse and prosy.  At the time I felt good for having read them, like ticking them off an invisible list of things to do. Take Lawrence Durrell - I loved his travel books but couldn't get on with the Alexandria Quartet.

These days I read very little literary fiction.  It's as if I can't be bothered to waste my time and energy on trying to find something, anything of interest.  I was talking to someone this week who had some of the same issues as me about the way he reads.

Perhaps these days I'm more comfortable in admitting the level of book I enjoy.  It's not that I don't enjoy a challenge and coming up to Christmas I'm about to find my annual holiday reading.  I already have a couple of books waiting for me, Teilhard de Chardin and Michael Frayn.  But they aren't fiction.

So the search is on for a novel to challenge my preconceptions about 'literary fiction'.

If you have any suggestions, I'm open to ideas.

But this morning I found a quote that made me feel somewhat better about my lack of enthusiasm about critics and their viewpoints(even though it's more about non-fiction).

'In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.'

George Orwell

Monday, 6 December 2010

John Wilson Orchestra

Nothing at all to do with writing, except for lyrics but what a fabulous concert last night at the Royal Centre.

The John Wilson Orchestra with soloists played an energetic, committed concert of music from the musicals put out by MGM. 

Couldn't fault it in any respect and one of the best live concerts I've enjoyed this year.  From the first note everyone in our section of the audience was foot tapping, swaying, and jigging in their seats.  Given the predominant age of the audience was over 50, everyone had a mental and physical workout as prescribed by doctors. 

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and all credit to the musicians and that remarkable man John Wilson.  And if the musicians had worries about getting home after the concert, none of it showed.  Thanks to them for making so many people happy.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Quote for all Christmas shoppers

'People who have what they want are fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it.'

Ogden Nash