Thursday, 28 March 2013

Lost the Plot

Has anyone else noticed that "Boy Meets Girl" doesn't seem to be the plot-line of many modern film and TV dramas?

We have "The Killing" and all its imitators ("Broadchurch, Shetland, Spiral) on TV.

We have "This is 40", and "I Give it a Year" on film.

What happened to old-fashioned romance?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Ask Your Mum - History

A further reason for my interest in Lotte Kramer and Judith Kerr is that they were born in the same year as my late mother.  And my mother-in-law, in fact, and my late father-in-law.  A generation that is fast fading from view, and will leave a big gap behind - namely first-hand recollections of what it was like to be a young person during the Second World War.  Anyone lucky enough to still have the chance, I urge you to ask your relatives for their memories.  Once gone, there will only be the TV to show a picture, and TV is inevitably biased.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Low Point

Do you ever read a book so bad that it makes you feel queasy?  And I am NOT talking about any shades of grey here.  I have not so much as taken an E L James from the shelf of a second-hand bookshop - yes, they are already making their appearance in charity shops, if anyone wants a cheap copy!  No, I do know my own limits, and am not going there.

The book I have just finished (I'm a great "I've started so I'll finish" person), is a memoir by a lady who was a Jewish refugee from Hitler in 1933.  My interest was caught because she happens to be the same age, gender and nationality as both Lotte Kramer (on whom I have posted below) and Judith Kerr, the author of the inimitable "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit".  Both of those authors write movingly and with delicacy about their childhood experiences and the way these impacted on their development as young adults and beyond.

Anyway, back to the bad book.  I won't reveal the author's name, as it might be considered offensive.  The story was about her search for a long-lost ancestor, and could probably have been condensed into about three chapters.  It was of minor interest, and there was nothing tearful in it, unlike the two authors referred to above.  I am struggling to identify why it left such a bad impression, other than the fact that it was extremely repetitive.  It left me craving a really classic work to put me back on my normal level of love-affair with books.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

Friday, 15 March 2013

My First Library Book

Last  weekend being Mother's Day, pause for reflection.

I thought of my own mother, who sadly died 25 years ago.

I promised to write of my first library book.  Naturally, it was my mother who took me to the library, filled in the forms, and generally guided the experience.

How different libraries were in 1958, (I was five years old). It astonishes me that, more than 50 years later, the practice of date-stamping the required return date has ONLY JUST faded out.  Now you have to put the books in a thing like an X-Ray scanner, and print out a slip of paper telling you the return date.

In those days, you were issued literally with a card, a small piece of cardboard. Now it is a plastic credit-card shape with a bar-code.

There was no cornucopia of colourful picture books then.  Probably post-war paper shortages were still in force.  I do remember that paper was expensive, and coloured printing even more so - magazines were in black and white, and advertising catelogues of glossy things were rare.

There were no squashy sofas and child-high book troughs to delve into.  There seemed to be no children's section as such.  Children's books probably WERE stacked in one section, but they looked just the same as all the other books, because they were all bound in ghastly faux leather house binding in dreary dark green or maroon.

As I could not reach these high shelves, nor tell one dark and uniformly bound book from another, my mother made the choice of my first library book.  And it was just the one book.  In those days you were limited to three, now you can take home twelve at a time.

My mother homed in straight away on a book she must have alreaady decided on, and took it down.  Without consulting me, she marched me to the desk and we took the book home.

It was by Mrs Molesworth, and was called "The Cuckoo Clock".   I am certain that I could not have read it myself, she must have read it to me.  It is quite a substantial, dense tome, about the length for example, of "The Secret Garden".  I don't remember a thing about it except the title and the author, and the external binding, stencilled with the title in gold lettering.

I now own a second-hand copy of this book, and still haven't re-read it.  It just doesn't grip me.  However, what does interest me is that it was first published in 1877! 

This must have been a book my mother had read in her childhood.  She was born in 1924, so most likely a grandparent or person of that generation had introduced it to her. Her adoptive father was born in about 1870 (according to family research my brother brought here at Christmas for me to look at) so it may even have been he who sat her down and possibly read it aloud. Someone certainly gave her a love of reading and a passion for the use of the library.

I still love libraries, although they are such different places now.  And children's books are so colourful and varied, and often so very funny. Troops of school children are brought by their teachers to experience the library, and a Mothers and Toddlers singing group takes place regularly. (In my childhood, you were scowled at if you so much as whispered a conversation in the hallowed place!)

All these are certainly changes for the better. Long live the library!

Friday, 8 March 2013


Yesterday was World Book Day.  Not a mention anywhere in my newspaper or normal radio news programmes.  I had to go to an actual bookshop before I could establish that it was actually yesterday, and even Waterstones only had a small corner allocated.

Today is International Womens' Day.  Again, no coverage except, (this may strike you as unbelievable), in a magazine about accountants, and in a seminar organised by an accountancy firm on the networking site "Linked-In".  Two marks for accountants, a traditionally male-dominated profession.

Instead, the media are obsessed with Red Nose Day (last night, BBC 3 had SIX hours allocated to Comic Relief).

Commerce is obsessed with Mothers' Day.  Every shop, every supermarket, huge advertising hoardings - all advertising Mothers' Day merchandise.

Now, I am a mother, and I consider motherhood to be the greatest challenge and the greatest joy of my life.

But, this year I would MUCH RATHER , instead of a gift, receive  news that the International Community was going to achieve, without escalation of violence, some peace and comfort for the mothers and children in Syria.

My newspaper did run, two days ago, a full page advertisement from Unicef, laying out in detail, in very small black and white writing, the suffering of the Syrian children.  I wonder how many people of influence read it.

The same day, William Hague was trying to restrain a colleague from calling for full-scale military intervention in Syria , and the US was rumbling along the same lines.

Today the news is that North Korea is threatening nuclear reprisals .Why oh why is the male response to nearly every crisis, the use of force?

If more men read things, they might feel a stirring of empathy, an imaginative identification with victims - "What if that was me, my family?"

Or am I just being silly?