Sunday, 23 February 2014

Loki, and Chocolat, and a car

I have finally picked up my new (to me) car, and returned the hire car, which is a relief. The hire car was very nearly new (it had less than 3,000 miles on the clock when I picked it up) and I was terrified the whole time that I would bend or break it!

My  new one is a VW Polo, 6 years old, and currently pretty shiny! (which , to be honest, is unlikely to continue for long, as I subscribe that life is too short to spend washing cars!) 

It's quite a change from the Smart - but I think that having space for passengers may come in handy from time to time. 

I picked it up on Thursday evening, and it promptly got rained on (fortunately the windscreen wipers were easy to find!).

That was Thursday, and on Friday (after what felt like a *very* long week) I headed into Bath for some fun.

I've blogged before about the wonderful Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of our two lovely independent bookshops in Bath, and how good their event are, and Friday night was no exception.

They were hosting 'Norse Night' with Joanne (M) Harris talking about her new book, 'The Gospel of Loki'

We started with music from The Bookshop Band (Who played their Loki-inspired song, 'Rooting for Loki', which is excellent!)

Then, we got to meet Joanne Harris herself. She talked to us about her childhood, and finding the Norse myths in Barnsley library, guarded by a fearsome librarian who, fortunately, viewed mythology as 'educational', and therefore suitable, (and who was, presumably, unaware of the dearth, destruction, incest and bestiality involved...)

She talked about her view that she was not changing genres by writing a fantasy novel; firstly, as she's written fantasy from day one, and secondly as her novels are all (including Loki) about outsiders in small patriarchal societies . . . starting while she wrote her first novel while working as a teacher at Leeds (Boys) Grammar school.. the only difference is the amount of magic involved.

She also told a wonderful anecdote about making a papier mache chicken out of her rejection letters and setting fire to it, as a cathartic way of dealing with the rejection (and about a certain American agent who rejected 'Chocolat' (on the basis it had too many old people, not enough young and beautiful people having sex, too many old people, and was set in a European village) and then, a couple of years later, after the success of the 'Chocolat' film, wrote to her agent offering his services to promote her work in the USA. (His offer was rejected!)

She is a highly entertaining and interesting speaker, and listening to her made me feel, too, that she was someone I would like to get to know better, and who would be fun to go out for a drink or meal with.

Harris was sccathing about publishers determination to divide books into different age groups and genres, and the patronising attitude which assumes that readers of fantasy are 'immature' readers, and very funny about her first meeting with Johnny Depp.

It was a lovely evening. (And did I mention that we were served with chocolate by way of homage to the novel?)

And I am now about a quarter of the way through 'The Gospel of Loki'. I'm enjoying it a lot. And I hope that Joanne Harris comes back to Bath next time she has a book out, because I want to hear her speak again.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Family and Floods

It's been an interesting week.

My parents came for the weekend, which was nice. They came with me to look at a second hand car, and helped me take my Very Old Bicycle to the tip.

On Sunday, which was an unexpectedly nice day, with sunshine and NO RAIN (for what feels like the first time in weeks) we planned to go over to Glastonbury and walk up the Tor, but when we got there we found that the entire world and his wife had had the same idea, so we kept going, and instead went for a very short amble nearby.

It was a lovely day, so the desolation caused by the flooding on the levels looked beautiful, but the extent of the flooding is sobering. And this was after a drier week. The water has gone down a little from its peak - we could see the 'tide mark' in the fields.

The row of trees is the boundary between two fields, and though it's not easy to tell from the photo, the flooding isn't the only damage - there are several trees down, too. 

This is the road. It's just about passable - we saw a young man on a motor bike go through, and it looked as though the water was 6 or 8 inches deep on the road itself, but the roads are higher than the surrounding fields (and there are rhynes (drainage ditches) by the sides of the road which are deeper still) 

The sheer scale of it is hard to appreciate until you see it - and it seems unlikely that this land will be much good for any grazing, or even silage making, this year, which will be devastating for the farmers, quite apart from the damage to people's homes.

it also makes you realise just how great a task the monks of Glastonbury undertook, when they took over the draining of the Levels in the middle ages.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

'The Girl With All The Gifts' - M.R.Carey

We're still having horrendous weather - yesterday we went from sunshine and rainbows, to hail, snow, rain, and sleet.Which was not a lot of fun, particularly the drive home through the sleet.

However, the evening was a lot of fun. I went into Bath, to Toppings Book Shop, for an evening with M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) who was there to promote and read from his new novel 'The Girl With All The Gifts'

I've enjoyed all of Mike's previous work which I've read: The Lucifer  and The Unwritten series' of graphic Novels, the Felix Castor novels, The City of Silk and Steel novel written with his wife and daughter, so it was pretty much a given that I would be buying this book.. I bought my copy when I picked up my tickets for the event, so I'd read about a third of it before this event. 

Mike started by reading from the beginning of the book, introducing us to Melanie, a very unusual little girl, living in a very unusual situation.

After the reading Mike did a Q and A session, explaining, among other things, that the novel has its roots in a short story called 'Iphigenia in Aulis' which was written for an anthology (An Apple for the Creature) - but no two people agree on how to pronounce 'Iphigenia', and anyway the story turned out to be more about Pandora than Iphigenia.

Also there will be a 6th Felix Castor novel, but this needed to be written first.

We finished off with a shorter,  second reading, then Mike signed books and chatted to us, which was fun.

Since Thursday I have finished reading the book. Its very, very good. I don't want to give any spoilers, so won't provide a detailed review -but will say that it far from being your average horror novel - it is as much about the relationship between the 5 major characters, and their individual characters and histories as it is about the apocalyptic world in which it is set.  If you like your horror thoughtful and thought-provoking, and if you enjoyed 'Let the Right One In', theni think you will enjoy this one.

As an added bonus, I was able to meet up with @TazorTam at the event, and we moved on from toppings to The Raven for a drink and a catch up, after the event, which rounded off a very enjoyable evening beautifully.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Plumbing again

The plumber came again today, and I have I new pump in my boiler, and less gunk in places where there shouldn't be gunk, and radiators which get hot. In fact they get hotter than the did before, which is nice.

I haven't had the bill yet, I'm hoping it won't be too horrendous.

And this weekend my parents are coming to visit, so I'm hoping I will be able to get my dad to accompany me while I look at more cars - for moral support as much as anything else.

I do wish it would stop raining, though.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Cars and Plumbing and Stuff

Last friday, my little car was taken away to be scrapped  live on a lovely farm with other happy little cars.

I'm currently driving around in a hire car - I decided that hiring a car for 3 weeks would be a sensible thing to do, so  have time to shop around, and do a bit of research, and decide what I want to replace it with. The current hire car is a very-nearly brand new ford fiesta - it has less than 8,000 ,miles on the clock, and it turns itself off every time you stop. I am not sure I like it.

So, last weekend I went to a number of different used car places, and drove 4 different cars. Which helped me to decide that I do not want a Toyota Yaris, or a Ford Ka, and  probably not Ford Fiesta.

A VW Polo is still in the running, and I want to test drive a Honda Jazz to see what they are like.  Although my colleagues have told me that I am too young, and have threatened to buy me tartan blankets and thermos flasks if I buy the Honda....

Tomorrow will see me visiting more car salesmen :-(

Meanwhile, my heating is  not working properly so I had to get a plumber out this evening. He unscrewed stuff, and checked on ballcoxks and things, and at one point hit some pipes with a large spanner. My ball cock was stuck, and now it isn't, but unfortunately that isn't what was causing the heating issue, so he is going to come back on Monday to check (and if necessary replace) the pump, and if that doesn't work, to flush the radiators and pipes.  Apparently I have inferior pipes.

So, it's a little chilly here (although i do have other heaters).

And I am feeling a little fed up, what with one thing and another.

On the plus side, my parents are visiting next weekend, which will be fun.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Coriolanus on Screen

I couldn't resist booking to see Coriolanus at the cinema,  (part of the NTLive programme) even though I had the good fortune to see it live. So Thursday night found me sitting in the Little Theatre in Bath, waiting to see Messrs Hiddleston and Gatiss, and Co. again.

I really enjoyed seeing the play again - I enjoyed the chance to see it from (mostly) the front rather than the side, which allowed me to see the faces of the actors for some of the parts where they were facing away from me during the live performance, for instance.  (I got to see Aufidius's kiss, which I didn't, the first time round)

The camera angles also meant the painted lines on the stage were more effective. On the other hand, I thought the shots of Martius's bloodied torso after the battle scenes did it a disservice - it was too clearly make up, less convincing than when seen on stage.

There were a couple of issues with the sound - I'm not sure whether that was just at our cinema, or whether it was at the Donmar end. Fortunately it was only for a couple of seconds at a time.

Having had the luxury of seeing the play already, I found that I was able to focus more closely on the dialogue, and on some of the subtler nuances of the play and the actors.

I did find that, in common with other NT Live broadcasts I've seen (and broadcasts of other stage productions, such as ballets) the film crew did insist on a certain amount of cutting and swapping between viewpoints, and zooming in and out. I am not a big fan of this approach - I would rather, on the whole, that they picked a 'seat' for the camera and stayed there, as I feel that that would give a more authentic theatre-going experience. After all, the production has been designed to be seen on stage, not as a film, and I think it loses something when you go to close, or move around too much.

I also disliked the interview with the director, Josie Rourke, being shown during the interval - I felt it was quite jarring. I was interested in what she had to say, but would rather have heard from her either as part of the 'talking heads' shown before the show started, or at the end, rather than in the middle of the play.

However, all of these are minor irritations. Over all, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the play again, (and would be more than happy to see it a third time, if I can find an encore screening that I can get to) and can only repeat what I said the fist time - Tom Hiddleston is a superb actor, and one who is well support ed by an excellent cast in this production.

My evening was slightly marred by the fact that I temporarily mislaid the car in the car-park when I came to go home, as I haven't really learned what it looks like yet, so I had to wander around clicking the key until a car flashed its lights at me, but other than that it was a practically perfect evening!