Tuesday, 27 November 2018

100 Good Things About Growing Old - Number 30 (wow, one third of the way through!) Weddings!

Two outings as Mother of the Bride - I will never be the Mother-of-the-Bride again, or if by some chance a second marriage occurs, it of course would lack the same significance.  Loved having my hair and make-up done, simply ADORED wearing a hat, and loved the whole build-up to the events.

Now we have two new sets of in-laws to take into account as we plan for the festive season.  As younger daughter reported after a social event with the four new cousins and their spouses, "It's great to have a new, bigger family".  That's so positive.

I really like both our new sons-in-law - they are very different but seem to get on well with each other - suddenly the generation below has doubled from two to four - and maybe will expand even more in the next couple of years. 

There is more to think of in every way - not least having to make more of an effort with social occasions.  I recently had to book an extra hair appointment to ensure I look nice for the New Year's Eve dinner to be hosted by one set of in-laws - it's important to show respect.  Also, I am only too aware of the old saying, you only have to look at her mother to see how your girlfriend will turn out.  So far the spectacle of me has not put them off - long may this continue!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Martin Amis, "The Rub of Time"

A Collection of Essays written between 1986 and 2016

I confess to never having read a novel by Martin Amis.

I did read (possibly) a couple of novels by his father, Kingsley Amis, in my extreme youth (before the age of 24), but I didn't enjoy the masculine tone, or the misogyny, and stopped after "Lucky Jim", and (possibly) "Take a Girl Like You".  I followed the progress of the senior author, via newspaper reports, until the publication of "The Old Devils".  This marked, on reflection, the emergence, within my reading persona, of the habit of taking from the reviews of a much talked-of new novel sufficient information to decide that it would be a waste of time to read the novel itself.

I did like Elizabeth Jane Howard, Kingsley's second wife. I've read almost all her novels.  From her own autobiography, I sensed that Kingsley was an unlikeable man, and after I dipped into a double biography of both Kingsley and Martin Amis, this was confirmed.  However, the latter book included some sharply incisive quotes from the work of both father and son, which whetted my appetite.  This led me to order some books from libraries, to find out more about the twentieth and twenty-first centuries from bite-size chunks of the authors'  output.  No need or desire existed to read even one novel by either, but each seemed in his own way to have put a finger on the pulse of his times.

I'm still waiting for a copy of Zachary Leader's (leading) biography of Kingsley, but a different county library has provided me with Martin's "Experience" and "The Rub of Time".   "Experience" is almost unreadable due to the author's habit (it's almost like he has just undergone colonic irrigation, and can't wait until arrival at a place where voiding would be appropriate) to thrust very lengthy footnotes onto almost every page, intended to illuminate - or perhaps cast a smokescreen of small grit over - the labouring brain of the reader.

"The Rub of Time", however, was easy and rewarding to read.  It was like being handed a potted history of much of what I missed over the last 30 years. This loss, due to the combined demands of working and parenting, resulted in my having little or no time or energy to read beyond the book reviews in the Sunday papers.

The essays confirmed that I don't need to bother seeking out any novels by either Vladimir Nabakov or Philip Roth (who died yesterday).  I've learned all I need to know.

On Philip Larkin,  I remain torn.  He was a much-loved poet of my schooldays, but I never read his novels.  Martin Amis often refers to him, in both the books I've mentioned here, largely because of his childhood memories of Larkin's visits to the family home.  Larkin was a friend and contemporary of Kingsley.   Martin hasn't succeeded in encouraging me to read Larkin again, but he does provide a good summary of the poet's 35 year relationship with a woman called Monica Jones.  I was aware of this (from reading the Sunday Times book reviews over the years) and aware that the affair reflected very badly on Larkin, but knew no details.  Martin's essay, reprinted from The Guardian, (2010) provides all the detail one could desire, without the effort of reading any full-length book.  The essay can be read in full here, and reading it gives a scintillating glimpse of the full Martin Amis range: wit, verbal dexterity, self-confidence, and simultaneous grasp of both the detail and the whole picture.

Here's part of a quotation from Larkin's "Letters to Monica" which Martin helpfully singles out as "the most memorable letter in the book".  Thanks, Martin, it saves me the bother of going through them all.   This letter endorses advice I have been given myself. The full quote can be read in the Guardian article linked above.

"It's simply that in my view you would do much better to revise, drastically, the amount you say and the intensity with which you say it . . .do want to urge you, with all love & kindness, to think about how much you say & how you say it. "  

Yup, and I say that to myself frequently as well.

 I will look out for more by Mr Amis junior.  In newspapers, of course.

Friday, 16 March 2018

100 Good Things About Growing Old - Numbers 25 to 29

Following the path through sunshine and shade, a little bit steeper, but still beautiful.

25.  I'm still here.

26.  After a brush with the Big C, and an anxious period of waiting for biopsy results, I've had good results which indicate no spread of malignant cells.

27. Friends and family have shown their true worth and goodness, and I do NOT mean that in an ironical way.

28. I don't worry about unimportant things, like what people might think about that awful coat I wear in cold weather.

29. Every day seems like a gift.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

A Country Church

As ever, visiting churches and looking at ancient monuments is a great form of solace.

This Tower at Barnack Church, near Stamford dates back to pre-Conquest times.  There is a Saxon sundial over the window, and a Saxon carving under the clock.  Saxon long and short work can be seen on the left.

Inside the church are some tombs, and a Victorian replacement rood screen.

There is also a carving of Christ in his Majesty.  Debate as to the age of this carving is found in the Church Guide Book.
Some think it is of the same date as the Tower, others that it dates to the 13th century with Saxon influence.

The symbolic gesture of blessing is very similar to that in the Saxon Angel carving at Breedon on the Hill, in the Church of St Mary and St Hardulph, Leicestershire.

I visited last week, having just been to the dentist, and had to explain that I'd rather not have an X-Ray right now, as I will be experiencing a nuclear (in the sense of radio-active) lymph node probe the week after next, and prefer to limit radiation exposure.  Also that the toothache I had been experiencing was in fact due to me clenching and clamping my teeth together so fiercely, whilst asleep, that even my plastic mouthguard could not protect them from the undue pressure.

Just going inside the church at Barnack gave me an instant dopamine shot of feelings of peace and release of tension.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Boxing Day Review.

One of the good things about keeping a blog is that it is quite literally a form of diary.  No-one I know keeps a diary any more, and nor do I.  It is therefore helpful to be able to look back over my records of my feelings on previous Christmases, and compare how I have managed this year.

Last year I had already upset lots of people, and all by Boxing Day morning.  Looking back over yesterday, I am proud to record that I only upset one person, my elder daughter.

 Last year, it was the younger one who appeared to behave selfishly.  This year the older.

 I kept stoom all through the afternoon when she sat reading a book in the sitting room surrounded by the other eight people present, all of whom were amicably keeping conversations going.  She also yawned conspicuously several times, including during the big meal. It wasn't until the last three guests had finally departed, at 9.30 pm, that I lost it.  I was desperate for some peace and quiet and to switch off.  She started wrapping presents and writing cards at 9.45 pm on Christmas Day.  I think and hope we will get over me snapping at her and in any case, when I look back on last year, I have done well.

So now we have just one more big meal to get through, and then farewells tomorrow, and it will all be over for another year. 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

100 Good Things About Growing Old - Number 24 - I FIRMLY don't want any tat. Rather have nothing than tat.

I've written before about the trials and tribulations of Christmas.

The tat, in particular, such as this item received a couple of years back.

I've asked my daughter to buy me something from a charity shop this year.  This simple action has made me feel so much better.

This morning we bought some items in Oxfam, for the tree.  Feels like a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Books - My Go-To Therapy

As ever, thinking about books and reading has provided the instant solace and comfort I require.   Not chocolate, not a hot bath or a chat with one of my daughters.  Just to sink back into the world of words, and find a like-minded person.

Here's what I found while trawling the internet in search of diversion. Over and under-rated authors, a list the Times Literary Supplement published in 1977.

I enjoyed this a lot - even though I have never heard of one of the commenters listed (Mary Douglas).  Another, Anthony Powell, would himself appear on my own list of totally over-rated authors.

To summarise what I found most satisfying, here are some extracts from the complete article. The pictures are added by me.

Philip Larkin 
(geeky university librarian)

the six novels of Barbara Pym published between 1950 and 1961 which give an unrivalled picture of a small section of middle-class post-war England. She has a unique eye and ear for the small poignancies and comedies of everyday life.
D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love. This is not intended to mean that I think Miss Pym a better novelist than Mr Lawrence, but Women in Love has always seemed to me the least read­able of his novels: boring, turgid, mechanical, ugly, and dominated by the kind of deathly will-power that elsewhere Lawrence always attacked. I seem to remember that Middleton Murry felt the same way about it.

Yupp - totally agree with just about every word of both these paragraphs. 

Bob Dylan
Overrated and underrated: the Bible.
Dylan, so off the wall as ever ....  Picture, just because I love Bob Dylan 
Hugh Trevor-Roper (historian)
Leaving aside the great charlatans, like AndrĂ© Malraux and Teilhard de Chardin, who are hors concours, I consider the whole Bloomsbury group—excepting only J. M. Keynes—to be the most overrated literary phenomenon of our times. Above all, Lytton Strachey: Strachey who has recently been accorded a two-volume biography, and whose only achievement was to trivialize history, to empty it of its real content and meaning, in order to raise a few complacent titters from the radical chic of his time.

Picture - Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

This one is more complex...
I love the analysis, sharply incisive, well-written, and I agree that generally the Bloomsbury Group are over-rated.  I do, however, make an exception for Virginia Woolf.  She was a radical feminist, a wonderful sister, a thoughtful and insecure person  .... And could put it all down in words, so effortlessly articulate.... Yes, I can always find something to interest me when I pick up a book by or about Virgina Woolf.

So, now, having cheered myself up, I am ready to return to normal cheerful and active state of mind.