In or Out? An historic day.

Today is an important day. As you will probably be aware, it is the day of the EU referendum in the UK, where we decide whether or not we still want to be a member state of the European Union. As I went to vote on my way home from work this evening, I felt somewhat nervous, as I got the sense that I was taking part in something that will become a part of British and indeed world history. There was an aspect of fear, of whether I was making the correct choice, and of whether the decision that the country votes for will be the correct one in the long run.

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I have been undecided for a long time regarding the way that I was going to vote, but at the same time have known deep down the way I was going to go since the outset. I think it would surprise my younger self though. The thing that has annoyed me about the whole thing is that way that the immigration card has been played continually, and how people seem to think that pulling out will allow us to magically solve the problem.  If the country can loose track of several thousand people, why would this be any different if we pull out? Will border control suddenly be able to count again? No. Of course not. It is just closet and not-so-closeted racism on a scale that allows it to become legitimate. Our country has always been intimately entwined with the wider continent, and it is foolish that people should think it right for it to be any different. Hell, trace any ‘British’ person’s ancestry back, and you’ll find French, Germanic, Danish, etc. We’re all European, however much we may not like it.

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Look who’s back!

Hello! It’s been a while! Apologies for not posting for quite a few months, but I’m back for the moment. Since I last posted back in January, quite a few things have happened on a personal level. However, in good news, we actually moved house in February! We never thought it would happen, but it did! We are far happier where we are now, as we are on the edge of the City looking out on some lovely countryside- the smell of cows wafting in through the open windows… The only things that I still haven’t got round to unpacking yet are all my novels, as we don’t currently have enough shelves. That’s a job for over the summer. Archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, music, history, etc. etc. are all shelved, but not poetry or novels. Once everything is in it’s place though, I intend to get some shelfies up on here!

I’ve also been buying more books. I’ve definitely slowed down, so they are trickling rather than flooding in, but they are still slowly coming. As such, there’s too many to do new book posts for the past 6+ months, and I can’t recall what I bought when.

Any other news? Oh yes- we’re expecting a baby girl! Still trying to recover from the shock and take it in at the moment, as we really didn’t expect that it would be a girl, but we’re happy. Very happy. More on that later in the year!

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My sentiments exactly

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Image: Toni Fisher

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New books: September 2015

[This post was typed up in October, but I haven’t got round to posting it. Some of the things that I say in it are out-of-date by now, but I’m leaving the post as it was written. I’ll add the amendments at the bottom and maybe elaborate in a subsequent post.]


September threw up an unexpected surprise, as well as an unexpected sadness. I was going to do a separate post on both of these at the time, but didn’t get chance to, and it seems a tad pointless now. Anyhoo.

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  • Edmund White –  Chaos*
  • Valeria Parrella –  For Grace Received: Four Stories of Modern Naples*
  • Antoine Francois Prevost –  Manon Lescaut*
  • Todd Solondz –  Storytelling*
  • Malcolm Bradbury –  Inside Trading*
  • Gavin Young –  Something of Samoa**
  • Imme Dros –  Annelie in the Depths of the Night*
  • Philip Gross –  Marginaliens*
  • Sylvia Plath –  Collected Poems*
  • Marivaux –  The Game of Love and Chance*

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  • Nathaniel West –  The Day of the Locust.    50p
  • Thomas de Quincey –  Confessions of an English Opium Eater.    99p
  • Virginia Woolf –  Orlando
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez-  Love in the Time of Cholera***  –  In Evil Hour  –  Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  • Jon McGregor-  so many ways to begin***
  • Charles Dickens –  Martin Chuzzlewit***
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  • Thomas de Quincy –  On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.    80p
  • Charles Dickens –  The Signalman: A Ghost Story.    £1.99
  • Pu Singling –  Wailing Ghosts.    80p

* 20p

** 10p

*** Library book sale

Now the sad news. All of the books in the first picture were from Webberley’s, which we learnt over the summer is to close in the new year. Webberley’s is the only independent book shop in the city that sells new books (we have several second hand bookshops), and so will be a big, big loss to the city when it closes. On the plus side, there may be another sale… No, I think I’d prefer to have the bookshop still open rather than a few more bargains.

However, some good news that I wasn’t expecting this month. I knew that following the publication of ‘Autobiography’, Morrissey was working on his first novel. However, I only learnt on about the 21st that this was to be published on the 24th, so we rushed to Amazon to place an order. Yes, I know we should have gone to an independent bookshop (or at least Waterstones), but… we can be fickle. I read a few reviews of this on the day it came out, and was slightly surprised that they were so negative. I’d expected there would be some that were less-than-glowing (coz, hey, it’s Moz, and the British press love to hate him just because he is), but was shocked by just how scathing they were. This has coloured my opinion somewhat even before I read it, which I wish it hadn’t. I want to be impartial, or at least not be negatively influenced from the outset. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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[Since this post was originally written, Webberley’s has closed (mid-Jan.), and I read ‘List of the Lost’ (Nov?). Despite the rather unnatural dialogue, I didn’t think it was that bad. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in it, and the ending is actually quite shocking, even if the plot is a tad odd. I do hope he writes more, even if it is just to write a novel that is on the same level as the sublime ‘Autobiography’. I’ll do a full review eventually, but will definitely re-read it, as there are things to pull out of it with repeated readings.]

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Life update #17: Happy new year…?

Well, we’re nearly a month into the new year, and I can honestly say that it’s been fairly shitty so far. I didn’t make any resolutions in a drunken haze this new year, as my wife and I thought instead it would be better to just be more general, and aim as a family to actually make something of this year, and to not sit back and let life just pass us by. Embrace an American, anything-is-possible attitude rather than being reserved and English and a little bit timid. However, before we’d even really got it into our heads that it was January and no-longer 2015, things started going tits up. Not going into it too much, but we had a family bereavement, I had the after-effects of the tragedy from just before Christmas, and other things started going generally quite shit. So I apologise for the lack of blog posts this month. I will rectify this soon. I’ve still got a new books post to put up from September, plus a big ‘un for October-December, and some sad news about independent bookshops, which I will do soon. I promise. Reviews, I’m not so sure about. Archaeology may make a reappearance, too. About time if it did. One good thing is that I’ve got back into reading more lately, and am ploughing through my ‘to read’ pile at a steady rate- even if this does mean more things to never get round to reviewing.

Anyway, for now I think I’ll hit the bottle and get rat arsed. Oh wait. It’s work tomorrow. Maybe another night. I’ll settle for another post or two and a few more chapters…

Happy New Year 2016!

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Image: hdwallpapers.in

Life update #16: Star Wars/Christmas/New Year

Hello! I’ve been absent from here for a while, haven’t I? Apologies for that. I’ve got a book post from September that should have gone up months ago, but it still hasn’t. However, I will get it up over the next few days, along with a combined Oct/Nov/Dec books post, and one highlighting a recent bookish obsession of mine. However, all to come in the NEW YEAR, for it is indeed the last day of 2015. No look back at this year of blogging, as I haven’t really done that much on here this year. Work has just been manic, and sleep/general lethargy caused by being emotionally brick-like and feeling shit has called me more and more often when I would usually be blogging.


However, this holiday I’ve actually managed to spend the nights reading, so I’ve got a good number of books to add to my ever-growing list of things to review. But it’s been good.


Now, I was going to do a post a few weeks back excitedly counting down to the new Star Wars film, but I never did. However, I managed to go and see the new film on the last day of term before Christmas, and loved every moment of it. I picked out a Sarlacc Pit of references to bits in the other films (Easter Eggs, I think they’re called*), and also a wonderful homage to the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Harrison Ford is being chased by a rolling alien creature down a ship’s corridor. I almost cried when Leia returned, and sat agog when [SPOILER]. I still haven’t quite got over it now. A nice point though was when Rey defeats Kylo Ren**, as the entire cinema of Y7-11 students erupted in whoops, cheers and applause. I didn’t expect that reaction. I like to think that it’s due to the school’s entire student body being staunch flag wavers for feminism and ‘girl power’, but something makes me think not***. A wonderful, wonderful film though. I didn’t dislike the prequel trilogy (they were my ‘era’ growing up), but love the way these build on the classic films in their aesthetics. Truly wonderful.

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Image: starwars.com

 


I suppose I should also say a belated “Merry Christmas!” or rather that I hope anyone reading this had a good Christmas. I found on Christmas Day that a work colleague had died suddenly that previous week, so the joy was quickly soured. What a note to leave 2015 on.


*Appropriate in a film released at Christmas. I’ve already started moaning about the Easter chocolates that are out in the shops now, but at least I haven’t seen anything to rival the brazenness of the Tesco Metro in Summertown, Oxford, back in 2011. Crème Eggs on Boxing Day. I kid ye not.

**Autocorrect changed that bit to Roy and Kyle Ren. I think the whole film would be more amusing and yet somewhat less impressive if that were to be the case.

***Perhaps the fact that there was more wolf-whistling during scenes of Roy ascending a flight of stirs, filmed from below, than I imagine there would be if a builders convention had attended the recent Miss Universe 2015 awards ceremony and sat in the front row. I exaggerate, but not much.

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New books: August

Now, I can’t put prices on these as I can’t recall how much I paid for some of them. However, brace yourselves. There’s a few.

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  • Victor Hugo –  Notre-Dame de Paris     50p
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald –  The Collected Short Stories     50p
  • Evan S. Connell –  Mrs Bridge     99p
  • Patrick Hamilton –  Hangover Square     99p
  • E. M. Forster –  The Obelisk     £1.49
  • Evelyn Waugh –  Vile Bodies     99p
  • Robert James Waller – The Bridges of Madison County     20p
  • Mary Shelley – Frankenstein The 1818 Text     20p
  • Roald Dahl –  The Enormous Crocodile     50p
  • Seth MacFarlane –  A Million Ways to Die in the West
  • Donald Barthelme –  Sixty Stories
  • Christopher Marlowe –  The Plays

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  • Apollodorus –  The Library of Greek Mythology
  • Herodotus –  The Histories

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  • John Kinsella –  Shades of the Sublime & Beautiful
  • William Congreve –  Incognita
  • Three Revenge Tragedies
  • Anne Fadiman –  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
  • Brian Friel –  Translations     –     Making History
  • Edwin Morgan –  The Play of Gilgamesh
  • Beaumarchais –  The Marriage of Figaro

These seven were all from the book sale at Webberley’s, the bookshop I mentioned in the July books post.

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  • Jeffrey Brown –  Star Wars: Jedi Academy

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  • Jane Austen –  Mansfield Park
  • Jules Verne –  Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Edward Bellamy – Looking Backward

Now, the reason that I never got this post up in August or September was because in late August I ordered a number of William S. Burroughs books off eBay and Amazon, and Royal Mail being what it is, these took a while to arrive. However, there should have been another book arriving that never did, and it was waiting for this one that held me up. We contacted the seller after several weeks, and they sent another out. However, as I type this, I’m still waiting for either copy to turn up. Luckily, we were able to get our money back, but I was a little bit pissed about it.

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  • William S. Burroughs –  Naked Lunch     –     The Yage Letters Redux     –     Cities of the Red Night     –     The Burroughs File     –     The Western Lands     –     My Education: A Book of Dreams     –     Last Words: The Final Journals of William Burroughs

A slightly pedantic point: the edition of ‘Naked Lunch’ shown here isn’t actually the one that I ordered. The one I ordered was the one from the same series as ‘Last Words’ and the copies of ‘The Soft Machine’, ‘The Ticket that Exploded’ and ‘The Place of Dead Roads’ that I got from Oxford back in June. My wife says that she prefers this cover that came, but I’m not too sure.

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Life Update #15: Lost opportunities and new beginnings

I like sleep. I’ve begun to realise that over the past few months, as the ability to stay awake in an evening and blog or get work done has got less with every passing day. The dark nights aren’t exactly helping either. There’s been lots of blog posts that I’ve been meaning to do, but which won’t be that apt or relevant if I post them now. However, there’s just as many that are, which is nice. There are a few posts that I can mash up with this life update and the new book posts from the past few months as well, which means less random and very short posts. Anyhoo. I may as well get on and update, rather than witter on about how and why I will do things. Better to just DO.


The summer was a welcome break from work and the general stresses of the school environment, and gave me some much-needed family time. I also begun to realise over this time that my two eldest children are ever-so-slightly keen on ‘Star Wars’. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it did mean that every day of the holiday, I spent some time having a lightsaber duel with the two of them, using ancient Jedi weapons crafted from the finest K’nex. And invariably they beat me.


The summer was also meant to be the time that we moved house, but the best laid plans, as they say… We got to the point where we were so drained and down through all of the searching and failing to find anywhere (or indeed hear back from landlords) that we decided to take some time away from it and reassess things. We were hoping for the October Half Term as the position of the altered goalposts, but this isn’t likely now either, as we lost the perfect house that we were so close to putting a deposit down on. We’re currently still looking.


Work hasn’t been too kind at the moment either, as it seem to have been GO!GO!GO! from the first day back. What with travelling to Manchester and Birmingham one week for conferences, then two nights of parents’ evenings back-to-back the following week, and having to flit between the school and our new Sixth Form several times each day, it’s been pretty mad. I’ve also become a form tutor for the first time, which is fun but an extra thing to think about. At the moment, I need to write everything down or it won’t get done, as my brain is acting somewhat like a conveyor belt. I think there’s a ‘Simpsons’ Clip about that somewhere.


Sticking with school, our eldest began reception class this term too, and so this had added an interesting new dynamic. He seems to have settled in well and has made several new friends, so our fears about him starting have been somewhat calmed.


One of the conferences I attended was with a number of Y10s, and revolved around Russell Group universities. There was a speaker from Oxford there, and it was during her talk that I begun to think about my time there. I don’t ever think that I really took full advantage of the opportunities that were on offer, especially the Tutorial system. At Oxford, students meet once a week with their tutor either individually or in small groups, and discuss the essay or problem sheet that they’ve been given, and its associated reading. The lady at the conference suggested that these Tutorials were opportunities to discuss, debate and question the Tutors on the subject, and to throw ideas out in a process of scholarly tennis. However, I can’t say that that was ever my experience, as I always found myself too worried about saying something wrong, and so often didn’t say anything. I never voiced any real opinion, and failed to ask really deep, probing questions, as I’d often got too many other things on my mind. It really was an opportunity missed, and I think now if I went back I’d be far more vocal and inquisitive. I can’t alter it, so that’s just how it was and how it is, but it did make me think.

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Wishful thinking of Egyptologists

Image: dailymail.co.uk

Image: dailymail.co.uk

An interesting story appeared in the news the other day. Nicholas Reeves from the University of Arizona has been studying detailed scans of the inside of Tutankamun’s tomb, made by Factum Arte, which were produced in order to make a facsimile of the tomb. He believes that he has found on the images evidence that points to a hidden, sealed doorway within the tomb that may lead to an undiscovered chamber or series of chambers. All very exciting stuff. However, he also thinks that these chambers could house the remains of Nefertiti, the consort of Akenaten, and the woman who some believe may have been the mother of King Tut. I was slightly surprised when I first read this, as I thought she’d already been found in KV35 in the Valley of the Kings with a cache of other royal mummies, but after doing a bit of digging (no pun intended), it seems as though she was just one possible contender for these remains, and DNA testing carried out a few years back has disproved this and the maternity issue. However, I can’t help but feel that this suggestion is a bit premature, and is purely designed to provoke speculation, interest, media coverage, and increase the chance of permission being granted for work to take place in the tomb. Where is the evidence for this? It would be amazing if it was the case, but an undiscovered chamber of Tut-related tomb goods would be just as interesting and archaeologically valuable. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on this one, but would love to be proved wrong.

Bust of Nefertiti. Image: en.wikipedia.org

Bust of Nefertiti. Image: en.wikipedia.org

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My book collection: Ted Hughes

I mentioned a number of blog posts ago that I’ve been going on a bit of a Ted Hughes blitz in recent months. This is due to the fact that (despite what some other bloggers and literary fans may think of him) I adore his work. You may wonder why I don’t bother just getting the collected poems, collected poems for children and other such books, but there’s a few reasons for this:

  1. I already have a good few of his books, and so don’t want these to become redundant
  2. I much prefer reading individual volumes of poems, rather than finding collections in a collected works. They are so much more convenient- they can be taken on the bus and slipped into a bag or a pocket
  3. Ted Hughes’ Collected Poems is notoriously confusing to work through, as poems are rejiggled between collections and sequences to reflect the interesting publishing history of his texts.
  4. Hey- I like books, so the more the merrier.

I may still get the collected poems for the several hundred uncollected poems that this contains, but not at any time soon.

Here are the few (…) I’ve picked up over the last few months:

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  • Meet My Folks!
  • How the Whale Became and other stories
  • Nessie the Mannerless Monster
  • The Iron Man
  • Collected Plays for Children
  • Season Songs
  • Moon Whales
  • What is the Truth?
  • Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth
  • Flowers and Insects
  • The Cat and the Cuckoo
  • Tales of the Early World
  • The Iron Woman
  • The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales
  • Difficulties of a Bridegroom: Collected Short Stories
  • The Iron Wolf
  • Frank Wedekind – Spring Awakening
  • Jean Racine – Phedre

All of these were off ebay or Amazon, except two: The Iron Man was picked up from a charity shop for 70p, and has the original illustrations by George Adamson, rather than the Andrew Davidson illustrations that are used in the subsequent reissues (including the one I picked up last year); The Iron Woman (the companion reissue edition to The Iron Man) was found in The Last Bookshop when I went down to Oxford back in June for that conference.

A few other points. Difficulties of a Bridegroom actually contains all of the prose from the wonderful collection Wodwo, along with three other stories, and it’s these I bought it for, as I already have the other six in the parent book. It’s also a bit of a bugger to find online cheap. Moon Whales (in this edition, not the original American release), The Iron Wolf (a collection of animal poems written for children, collecting several shorter volumes) and Ffangs… are all gloriously illustrated by the fantastic Chris Riddell, and are worth getting for this point alone. The animal poems and Ffangs… are also quite good books. Moon Whales isn’t great, I must admit. I am not a big fan of when Hughes tried to rhyme, as much sounds too contrived and a bit clunky. Flowers and Insects is an interesting one, as it has never been properly reissued by Faber (except in the Collected Poems) and has never been issued in paperback. It contains some bloody awful watercolours by Leonard Baskin, whose otherwise magical line drawings graced the covers and pages of Crow, the first issue of Moon Whales, Gaudete, Cave Birds and Moortown. However, the layout of the book is also a shambles, with pictures being sliced, repasted oddly, printed more than once, or just generally reproduced badly.

Lastly, The Cat and the Cuckoo is not published by Faber, and was a nice find on ebay, but my copy is somewhat let down by the foxing on the endpages, which doesn’t make it an overly approachable volume. The poems are all (except one) in The Iron Wolf, but this edition is worth having just for the illustrations by R. J. Lloyd.

Now, for completeness I’m missing a number of his plays, as well as the individual 2011 reissues of the original versions of Remains of Elmet and River (before they were annoyingly rehashed for Three Books), but here is my Ted Hughes collection as it presently stands:

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Not a shelfie as such, but enough shelf porn to keep me going!

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Bus Reads 5: Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’

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I was interested to read this book, as a friend of mine from Uni is from the Czech Republic, and the novel is set in Czechoslovakia during the turbulent 1960s, so it allowed me to see something of her nation’s story as well as giving me an idea about where she is coming from on various issues. I had no preconceived notion about this work, so the book didn’t surpass or fall below expectations, but I was surprised just how much the book revolved around sex. Now, I don’t have an issue with this, but it would be nice to be warned when I’m reading it on a bus. I feel that people may be reading over my shoulder and think I’m reading something salacious. Anyway. I’ve read much worse since.

The way in which sex and love were presented through the thoughts and actions of the different characters was interesting and thought-provoking, with Tomas seeing it as nothing but another way of getting to know women better, and indeed being the only way to fully know their individual differences. This view can be understood somewhat in his profession as a surgeon, as this would precondition him to see people as the same, working in the same ways and as perhaps highly impersonal, whereas the act of sex allows him to see beyond the mechanics of the body into the personality of the individual. However, this view of sex and love as two distinct entities was something that seemed to run through the novel with all of the characters, and which begun to grate on me after a while. I can’t say that I condemned the characters for their actions and their views (that sounds a bit harsh), and indeed they were all likeable, believable figures, but I did see myself in moral and ideological opposition to them. For me, the two should be intimately intertwined, and so I was perhaps less able to empathise with the people in the novel than I have with other literary creations.

I did find the passages concerning the dog Karenin rather moving, though, which was a tad embarrassing on the bus, but Kundera did well to make Karenin as well-formed a character as the others in the text. Also, the sense of loneliness and desolation created worked well, and tinged much of the work with a quiet sadness that made it a poetic read in one respect. However, I think the biggest problem I had with the novel was that I missed the central philosophical tenets that underpinned the idea of ‘lightness’ and its opposition. Perhaps another read may be in order, in a quiet room with no distractions and a steaming mug of something rich. I feel that the book deserves a second chance, as I don’t think I’ve done it justice.

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New books: July

I promise that I will give up buying books for a while now after this month. Having no shelving as of yet for books means that I just keep piling ‘em up and hoping that they will fit somewhere when we move, and I can’t keep on. However, this month has seen me tempted terribly by both pretty classics (Penguin and Oxford, I’m looking at you), and a ridiculous book sale in the only independent bookshop left in Stoke-on-Trent. It would be bad not to patronise them when they have a sale on, surely?

Webberley's Bookshop

Webberley’s Bookshop

All but five of the following books were from the sale, bought over four visits.

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  • Allen Ginsberg – Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems £2.99
  • Daljit Nagra – Look we have coming to Dover!*
  • Thomas Hardy – Wessex Poems*
  • Ian Duhig – The Speed of Dark*
  • Maurice Riordan – Floods*

The Ginsberg was spied in the Oxfam on Turl Street in the centre of Oxford when I went down at the start of the month with a group of Y10 and ex-Y11 students from work for a two-day (one night) residential at my college, St. Hugh’s. I did visit The Last Bookshop (as mentioned in a previous book-haul post), but didn’t come away with anything from there.

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  • Federico Garcia Lorca – The House of Bernarda Alba and Other Plays*
  • Sophocles – The Theban Plays**
  • Bertolt Brecht – The Good Woman of Setzuan*
  • William Shakespeare – Love’s Labour’s Lost*          –               Four Comedies : The Taming of the Shrew – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – As You Like It – Twelfth Night*            –               Anthony and Cleopatra**
  • Oscar Wilde – A Woman of No Importance*           –               Salome*

I already own a copy of the Sophocles plays (the Oedipus trilogy) in a Robert Fagles translation, but this is a different translation, which I thought would be interesting to compare it with. Also it’s a nice Penguin Classics edition.

In the same way, I already own a copy of The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, but for the price I thought it daft not to get this four-in-one text; it works out at 5p a play. Also, it frees up some room, as the four-in-one take up far less room than my copies of those two plays do individually.

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  • Sivadasa – The Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie***
  • The Tain***
  • William Beckford – Vathek**
  • W. Somerset Maugham – Liza of Lambeth*
  • Colette – Cheri**
  • Jane Austen – Emma***
  • Henry James – Washington Square**
  • Henry Mackenzie – The Man of Feeling**

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  • Laura Schwartz – A Serious Endeavour: Gender, education and community at St. Hugh’s, 1886-2011             £10
  • Philip Ardagh – The Archaeologist’s Handbook**
  • Tracey Turner – Foul Facts from the Perilous Past**
  • Richard Mackay – The Atlas of Endangered Species***

The first of these was also bought when I was down in Oxford, from St. Hugh’s College itself. It was written for the 125th anniversary of the college in 2011, but I never got a copy when I was actually studying. The other three of these are for use at work.

Now, the next book (I hope) speaks for itself:

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How ACE. This was also from the book sale (**)

Now, lastly, these weren’t:

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  • Virginia Woolf – The Lady in the Looking-Glass**
  • Voltaire – Candide and Other Stories         99p
  • Marcel Mauss – The Gift £1.49

The Gift is one of the key texts that I used at Uni, and which I’ve meant to get my own copy of ever since I was studying. Also, on the subject of this book (and more specifically it’s author), our youngest son has a toy mouse that we’ve named Marcel. Only us…

Now- NO MORE BOOK BUYING!


* 20p

** 50p

*** £1

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Giving up coke

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not exactly a massive fan of Coca Cola. Now, having read this, I’m put off even more:

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Strange gold spirals from Denmark

This is a short mention of an interesting archaeology story that came out at the start of the month. An excavation in Boeslunde, south-west Zealand, Denmark, has revealed an unusual find of around 2,000 fine gold spirals, dating to around 900-700 B.C. Previous excavations here have brought up 10 gold rings- six of which were large and heavy, and four of which may have been ‘oath rings’ (typically found in sacrificial settings). With this new find, the site has now provided the most gold artefacts by weight from the Northern European Bronze Age. The spirals are made from extremely pure gold that was hammered flat to just 0.1 millimetre thick, and all together weigh between 200 to 300 grams (7-10 ounces). It has been suggested that the spirals may have once been woven into hair or used on some ceremonial clothing or headdress of some kind. A large lump of the coils may have sat originally in a birch wood box with a leather lining, based on remnants found at the scene, with others found in bunches of three or four, but archaeologists don’t seem to know what they were used for (they were probably ritual then…). To my mind they seem to look more like shavings or waste product from some sort of manufactory process, but what seems like careful disposal would make this unlikely. I don’t know- I’m probably wrong. If anyone reading this post does know any more about this find or have any theories, please feel free to post these below- I’d be glad to hear them!

Image: Morten Petersen / Zealand Museum.

Image: Morten Petersen / Zealand Museum.

Spiral in situ surrounded by birch fragments. Image: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

Spirals in situ surrounded by birch fragments. Image: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

Image: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

Image: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

Image: Morten Petersen / Museum Vestsjælland.

Image: Morten Petersen / Museum Vestsjælland.

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New books: June

…and for this month’s books:

June books 1

  • Robert Louis Stevenson –  Treasure Island
  • John Osborne –  Look Back in Anger
  • Oscar Wilde –  The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Thomas Kyd –  The Spanish Tragedy
  • Oliver Goldsmith –  She Stoops to Conquer

These all came from a colleague at work who teaches in the English department, and who was offloading many of her university texts on the school library. I had first dibs on any that weren’t wanted for the students, and so I picked these few. Free books are greatly appreciated!

Now these ones I did have to pay for:

June books 2

  • John Milton –  The Portable Milton     50p
  • Andrew Motion –  Selected Poems 1976-1997     50p
  • Karel Capek –  Rossum’s Universal Robots     £2.50
  • William Golding –  The Double Tongue     £2.50
  • Kurt Vonnegut –  Breakfast of Champions  –  Armageddon in Retrospect     £2.50 each
  • William S. Burroughs –  The Soft Machine  –  The Ticket that Exploded  –  The Place of Dead Roads     £2.50 each

A few points- I already have a copy of Paradise Lost with extensive notes, and the Milton text here is a rather hefty tome, but it contains pretty much all of the poetry that he wrote, including Paradise Regained, so I thought it a worth-while purchase.

The Motion selection is also of note, as it adds to my collection of signed poetry books that I’ve managed to pick up cheap. I’ve already got two Simon Armitage and a Wendy Cope book signed.

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Ta-dah. Not bad for 50p.

Lastly, the last seven books were all picked up a few weeks back when I went down to Oxford for the day for a work conference. It’s the first time I’ve been back since the graduation in September 2013, so that was nice (even though it rained most of the time I was there), and I managed to nip to a favourite bookshop of mine. There’s a shop there called The Last Bookshop, which used to sell everything for £2, and which had quite a good run on academic texts, Faber poetry and classics. I spent  small fortune in there over the three years of my degree. It looks like it’s now under new management, and everything is now £3, but they do a nice ‘2-for-£5’ deal that led to me buying quite a few. Hopefully I can call in when I’m down again for work in the next few days!

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New books: May

Yep. I’m behind again. I’ve still got book reviews to type, and a few archaeology and anthropology posts to do. Will I ever get round to them? Perhaps not. For now, May’s books:

May books

  • Bob Dylan –  Tarantula     50p
  • Roald Dahl –  Rhyme Stew     50p
  • J.B.Priestley –  An Inspector Calls and Other Plays     £2.99
  • William Shakespeare –  Julius Caesar     20p
  • Bret Easton Ellis –  American Psycho     50p

I also picked up this:

Me, somewhat surprised with myself. I mean, come on- it's shit, isn't it? ...Isn't it...?

Me, somewhat surprised with myself. I mean, come on- it’s shit, isn’t it?

Don’t shoot me- I know it is shite, and just a cursory glance across the text and its grainy b&w plates reinforces the level of pseudo-archaeological, cod-scientific bull crap that it contains, but it is the book that got my Tutor at Oxford into archaeology, and I thought it worth buying just for that, and the comedy value. It was also only 50p. Expect a scathing deconstruction of this at some point, as I do intend on reading it soon.

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Cuddly avacado

Awww! Cute cuddly cuddling avocado!

Image: Hanna Dovhan

Image: Hanna Dovhan

More wonderful woollen creations can be found here: http://annadovgan.tumblr.com/ and here:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/Wooolsculpture?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Gummy Lego!

You may recall the chocolate Lego that I posted about a number of months ago. Well, now there’s gummy Lego that you can actually build with!

Image: The King of Random

Image: The King of Random

Image: The King of Random

Image: The King of Random

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Tolerant traffic lights

Last Saturday was an annual event that I look forward to but which is pure torture for my wife, and which she falls asleep during most years. I’m talking about the camp kitsch-fest, the Eurovision* Song Contest. This year, it was hosted in Austria, and to celebrate the bearded lady who won last year, new traffic lights have been installed around Vienna that celebrate diversity and LGBT couples. There has been some controversy surrounding the cost of installing these new lights around the city, but they have been embraced by locals and are going to be rolled out to other cities across Austria. Personally, I think that they are a great idea, and wish that such things could be found here in the UK. I fear though that here there would be too much backlash, or they would be vandalised by individuals with too much testosterone and too much prejudice in their system to think straight (or in this case, think too straight). Despite the image that this country tries to maintain, we will never be comfortable enough and inclusive enough to institutionalise such views without falling foul of someone who can’t see past the stigma and who does not understand humanity in all of its many possibilities.

The new lights, depicting both hetero- and homosexual couples

The new lights, depicting both hetero- and homosexual couples


* Yes, I know that it was the 60th Contest, but how does that validate the inclusion of Australia? And since when have Azerbaijan and Israel been part of Europe?

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Hyalinobatrachium dianae – The see-through Kermit

I suspect that you saw this last month when it seemed to be everywhere on the internet for a while, but I didn’t get around to posting about it. In Costa Rica, scientists have discovered the first new glass frog since 1973, and this one is rather interesting, as it bears a striking resemblance to a certain green, froggy puppet. See for yourself:

Image: Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre

Image: Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre

The new species- Diane’s Bare-hearted glass frog- is only an inch long, and is thought to have been unknown for so long due to its whistle-like call resembling that of an insect. And why the name glass frog? Ta-dah!

Image: Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre

Image: Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre

 

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New books: February/March/April

I didn’t see the point in putting a new books post up for these months individually, as I’ve only had one or two each month. They’d have been pretty pointless posts. So the combined haul is as follows:

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  • Jack Kerouac – On the Road: The Original Scroll     £3
  • Aesop – Aesop’s Fables     99p
  • Ken Kesey – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest     50p
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky – Notes from the Underground        25p (library sale)
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin – We      25p (library sale)
  • Fred Wander – The Seventh Well      25p (library sale)
  • L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz      75p

I mentioned in my review of On the Road that I was interested in reading the unedited version, so the discovery of this in a Waterstones’ sale was quite nice. Also, you may notice from a previous post that I already have a Penguin Classics version of We. However, I read this recently (expect the review at some point in 2017…) and couldn’t follow it too easily, so wondered whether a different translation may help.

Also, Penguin have recently released a series of ‘Little Black Classics’ as per their previous small classics ranges for notable Penguin anniversaries, and I’ve had a few of these (all 80p each). I’m sure you can read the titles for yourself:

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Lastly, I have had more books than this over the past few months. I’ve purchased two poetry that I’ve forgotten to photograph:

    • Seamus Heaney – District and Circle
    • Simon ArmitageTyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid

Along with these (and after these) I’ve also bought quite a number of Ted Hughes books to try and complete my collection. These have all come off eBay and the tax paradise of Amazon, but I’m still waiting for a few more to arrive, so will do a separate post on all of these in due course (privatised Royal Mail permitting).

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Life update #14.5

I’ve just realised after typing that last post why I’ve been feeling so morose. That bloody election result. It’s still bugging me, and it made me realise that I hate people. Five years of crap, and so what shall we do? Vote for five years of the same crap again. Why thank you very much.

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Life update #14

Why hello! Fancy you reading this! I suppose I’d better apologise yet again for the lack of blogging that has gone on this past month. For one, I haven’t had a lot to blog about, but also life, work (it’s GCSE time again!) and sleep seem to have taken over. We’re looking to move house soon (have I already mentioned this?), but are having real issues finding somewhere- in part because landlords and estate agents don’t actually seem to get back to us when we inquire. We did have a viewing arranged for last weekend at the most perfect house, but then it turns out to have been let before we even had chance to see it. To say we were (and still are) pissed off is putting it mild. This is dragging us all down at the moment, and sleep seems to win out over staying up late at night and worrying/fretting/typing on a temperamental keyboard that takes five times longer than it should to type a sentence on. However, it’s half term now (the joys of working in a school!), so this has provided a small window for catching up on some much-needed posting time. I’ve had to borrow a laptop from work though so as I can get some work done and get these posts typed up more quickly.

Talking of work- I may be going to Oxford next month on a conference, which should be pleasant, and which I’m secretly looking forward to. Neither my wife nor I have been down since my graduation in September 2013, so we’re both pretty homesick for the place. We’ve been wanting to go down for a few days every holiday, but haven’t either had the time or the train fare. I’d feel a bit bad going without the rest of the family, though. It’s bad enough for them that in July I’m going down for two days with work to stay at my college, St. Hugh’s.

What else is happening in my life? Oh yes- it doesn’t seem as though my poetry submission has got anywhere, as I still haven’t heard back and it’s been a number of months now. Is that how long it usually takes to hear back, or will this silence be a permanent thing? I s’pose I may as well bite the bullet and just send them on mass to as many publishers as I can, but I am still fearful of rejection. I know all wannabe writers go through it, and that I’m just being a wimp, but- my work’s shit, and I don’t need other people’s rejection to tell me that. I’d intended over Easter on beginning the next book of poetry (I’ve got the odd line, poem title and fragments scribbled down ready from when I wrote my first collection, but haven’t yet worked them into some sort of order), but despite buying a brand new notebook, I didn’t get anywhere. Not so much as a word written in it. I’d also planned on getting some more of those short stories and fragmenty/sceney/vignettey things down on paper, but to no avail. I’ve got these planned alright- I’ve got two novellas and a full-blown novel planned- I just can’t be arsed to actually write them. Okay, that’s not strictly true. It’s more like I’m scared to write them as I don’t feel as though I could write them either as well as they seem to be as they are at the moment in my head, or as though I will be able to write enough and quickly enough. It usually takes me a long time to write prose. I can bang out a poem (on a good day) in about ten minutes; some of my best are written like this. But prose has to be teased out at the rate of about a line a day. I think I need a big kick. And some coffee. That usually helps.

Anyway. Back to the blog. I’ve got a not-so-new-by-now book haul to post next and a few other oddments that I’ve come across, so hopefully I can get these up soon. I also intend on making headway with my book reviews soon, as I’ve got books that I read at the start of 2014 to still review…

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Happy Easter!

Image: Quentin Blake

Image: Quentin Blake

Startled face

startled face

Image: Electric Puppet

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Where should I live?

I’ve just done a test on the BBC website to see where in the UK I should live, based on my personality, and the results were rather interesting. Firstly, here are my personality results:

Screenshot (19)

…I don’t know whether to be happy with those results or not. Here’s how suited I am to Stoke:

Screenshot (17)

The best place locally for me would be:

Screenshot (18)

I can’t complain- Newcastle-under-Lyme is a nice place. Nationally, the worst place would be:

Screenshot (16)

I’ve never been to Carlisle, so I couldn’t possibly comment on this one. However, based on my dubious personality, the best place in the country for me to live in order to be happiest would be (drum-roll please…..)

Screenshot (15)

Can I really complain at that? It’s true!

If you want to have a go at the test, here’s the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3g487h

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Preparation for rejection

…I still haven’t heard anything either way regarding my poetry submission. Perhaps no news, as they say…

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Bolt Poetry by Tobbe Malm

I never imagined that a bolt could actually look sad, but it seems that it can. These wonderful artworks were created by a Norwegian artist and photographer named Tobbe Malm, and all images belong to him.

64cb8cbee25c88b763ec5c96156fa0688ca5da800076e477d200d687197cc8c14cc837a2016d446874e44c4880c6a60c 162b5d628f1011bf434ed4ecf392d6a4 878efde5be2c0d8a46599ed5f76e527a 654580595b39eb35ca01c97c1c58f863 aed2aa381bf3a31161e1429fcd79cc08 b81bc76a04953fa3ecb1a84a70c54843 db329882bf18bfd43add5ce875708010

 

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A bad week, World Book Day and other things: Life update #13

Nope, I haven’t blogged enough recently. I’m just too tired to, to be honest (the only time I usually get to blog is at night). This post is also going to be rather scattered, as I’ve a couple of things to say but no real need to make them into separate posts.


Firstly, my prat-fall last Monday. And I mean that literally. I was running for my second bus in the morning on my way to work when I slipped, fell and smacked the right side of my face on the paving slabs, knocking chunks off two of my teeth, splitting my lip and generally battering myself up. An ambulance came out, I was checked for concussion, and I ended up having to have two days off work. I’m now incredibly wary about rushing about anywhere, but at least the cuts and swelling are going down now.


That was the start of the week. To end the week, yesterday I managed to loose £20 by not looking what I was doing and managing to drop a note when I went to put it in my pocket- only realising afterwards. I think my head’s in a weird place at the minute, what with one thing and another.


The middle of the week, by contrast, seemed to go okay. Thursday was World Book Day, and at work lots of us staff dressed up as literary characters, with me going as Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Predictably, none of the students got it, with most thinking I was Bond due to my Tux and black tie. However, my eldest son came out with the best comment of the day. In the morning, he decided to tell me that I looked like Basil Fawlty, from Fawlty Towers. Fine, as my wife has likened me to John Cleese’s character once or twice. It wasn’t until I got home and he said it again that I begun to think about what he’d said.

“But Basil Fawlty doesn’t really wear a bow tie. He only wears a dinner jacket and bow tie in one episode…”

“No Dad, you look like other Basil.”

“Other Basil? Oh…”

It then dawned on me that “Other Basil” meant that lovable yet ever-so-slightly-stupid Spanish waiter Manuel. Harumph. Owned by a four-year-old.


I’ve still got about a dozen book review posts to write, with my reading from pretty much the past year, but I just thought that I’d mention that I’m nearly finished reading J.G. Ballard’s novel Crash. Let’s just say for now that it is certainly the most painful book to read that I’ve ever come across. I’m not cut out for that sort of thing…


I’ll leave this post with something thought-provoking. I can’t remember where I found it, so apologies for the lack of image credit.

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