If You Signed up for Films or Books..


Reading “Simple Blogging” alerted me to the un-niche-ness of my blog. Folk who want to read about “Justified” aren’t necessarily folk who want to see my baby blue, hand dyed alpaca bobble yarn. There’s an overlap, but it’s minimal. So henceforth I am Lydia-two-blogs.

Judah’s blanket: the haven of domesticity it always was.

*What Would Sherlock Do?: all the stuff you’d find in The Times Culture magazine, but in an inferior writing style.

Some of you followers may be leaving us to sample these new pastures. I’ll miss you, when your name popped up as a subscriber I got a little jolt of fatheaded joy.

*Garry suggested “Bludah’s Janket”



Jon Wants to Believe the Best of the Klan

Jon wants to believe the best of everyone he meets, whether it’s Omar Bakri Mohammed or David Icke. No matter how ludicrous or repellent your claim (a cabal of Jewish lizard people rule the world) Jon will give you opportunity to prove it. This gives his writing a warm, clearheaded openness and means when people reveal themselves as malicious, bigoted or hateful you are hit with shocked conviction. It’s also funny, as the contrast between the grandiose things believed and the ordinary, mistake prone humans who believe them, is often comic.

“Them” is a nonfiction story of a search for an urban legend, the Bilderberg Group, a conspiracy of the hugely rich and the prospectively powerful, allegedly shaping world events.

It turns out to be true.

Only not how it sounds.

Not how it sounds, because this is also a book about subjectivity. About how two people can witness the same event, one seeing harmless immaturity, the other sickening evil.

Read it yourself and discover if you’re Scully or Mulder.

The Last Time This Happened Was With Umberto Eco

When I got to the end of “Still Life” I went straight from page 377 to page 1 and began again. I wanted to see the people move around knowing who they really were.

I love detective novels. I want complicated and mysterious plots. I don’t want tales of people kidnapped and kept in cages for weeks on diets of rat droppings, for the purpose of organ transplant without the benefit of anaesthesia. Many modern novels have too high a level of vicarious sadism for me.

Louise Penny‘s work is perfect. She creates an appetite with curious actions and half revealed conversations, but never sacrifices realism. This realism is most evident in the characters. Gamache himself is a rock and reminds me of Maigret. Compassionate, patient, intelligent, authoritative, content and contentedly married (only Maigret drinks more and is more flirty) As in life, rude, selfish people are still loved and some good people are mistrusted. Scared, obnoxious people sometimes remain unsoftened by repeated kindnesses. The book ends but the puzzles are the only things tied up. The reader has been privy to the inner worlds of all, but between the characters important things are left unshared and misunderstandings remain.

From the acknowledgements, as originally and beautifully written as the novel, we can glean how natural it was for Louise to write this particular story. She loves her husband and he loves her. She treasures her friends. I find her appreciative, modest and generous with praise. A central part of the story are the paintings of a murdered woman. The descriptions of her art are detailed, inspiring, glorious. They made me long to paint like that. Louise gives credit and thanks to her friend Liz Davidson.

“Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own little secret. She didn’t really let go of everything. Most things, yes. But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others.”

The Penguin Hit Me In The Face

Books about writing emphasize truth. Whether it’s Milne’s stuffed toys or Orwell’s farm animals, the characters must have believable emotions and motives. To recognize the reactions in a story, can be as startling as coming across a portrait of oneself in a gallery. The shivery thrill of the familiar.

I felt this reading “Bonjour Tristesse” by Francoise Sagan. A young girl, Cecile, enjoys a pleasantly frivolous life with her father and his parade of girlfriends. This is interrupted by the arrival of Anne, who offers a more substantial existence and to whom her father is very attracted. Cecile is outraged and takes cunning steps to sabotage the relationship, making use of her own boyfriend and her father’s previous lover.

The book recalls the superiority, petulance, ruthlessness, shortsightedness, adoration and inconsistency of youth. The mistaking of intensity for longevity. Even more, the passing of these things, the later perspective from which you view your selfishness. It was like seeing myself on an operating table, skin folded back, ribcage cranked open, my insides, which felt so unique, so special, just looking like everyone else’s, vulnerable and slightly shameful.

“‘Your idea of love is rather primitive. It is not a series of sensations, independent of each other….’ I realized how every time I had fallen in love it had been like that: a sudden emotion, roused by a face, a gesture or a kiss, which I remembered only as incoherent moments of excitement. ‘It is something different,’ said Anne. ‘There are such things as lasting affection, sweetness, a sense of loss….but I suppose you wouldn’t understand.’”

Prepubescent Poirot

From the nostalgically stylish dust jacket, to the hand drawn map of Bishop’s Lacey and it’s environs, you are prepared for Golden Age detections and you’ll find echoes of the best of them here. It has puzzling plotting and a close country community, but Alan Bradley has written a book that exceeds the genre. Much of this is down to a clever choice of heroine, Flavia de Luce, an 11 year old chemist. Flavia is not one for self pity but she is a tragic character. Her mother died when she was a baby leaving the Colonel a widower and Ophelia, Daphne and Flavia motherless girls. These four struggle to function without the necessary Harriet, awkward as strangers or vitriolic as enemies, they are incapable of showing the affection they feel for each other. Harriet’s absence is ever present.

Independent, brave and stubborn, Flavia sees all with wry humour, but her youth and disposition hide things from her that we detect. We sharply see the turmoils and tragedies that are merely hazy outlines to Flavia. She is gifted at putting together the jigsaw pieces of means/motive/opportunity but the heart is hidden from her. This way Alan can have his Dundee and eat it, as the book’s light, energetic style is Flavia’s but the perceptively drawn characters are Bradley’s and real and complex.

No One Has To Cry For This To Happen

Only one room in our house (the tiny toilet) has less than fifty books on the shelves, several rooms have hundreds. When I thought about teaching the children to read I didn’t have a set method in mind but I did have two convictions:

1. It must not be an ordeal. For either of us. Nothing dampens the prospective pleasure of reading more than a tear soaked Roger Red Hat.

2. It must have context. Stuff that’s connected to an experience, story or conversation is easy to recall and therefore use. Random facts are harder to absorb. The whole point of this agreed code of written language is communication. It has meaning. Getting my child to learn combinations of sounds in isolation would feel like writing vowel pairs on helium filled balloons and letting them loose to float around the Albert Hall.

C picked it all up latish, she was about 9 before she could muscle through the average sentence. It didn’t happen gradually, a switch was flicked and abruptly all made sense to her. Before that, any attempts to teach her felt like trying to communicate through plate glass. It seems to me that she just needed more data, information was constantly being unconsciously assessed and sorted, it’s patterns deduced, until one day she just knew. Now she’ll get through a 400 page book in a couple of days. Later doesn’t seem to mean less efficient, more efficient if you take into account how frustration free the path was.

This is something to do with my 12/2012ing. The switch has flipped in S’s brain and when he sees a word he knows what to do, he’s very good at connecting new up with known. P’s still groping around in a fog.

Tweenager With Blood Pressure Issues

Sherlock was my first love. As I child I had picked up a coverless, paperback copy of ” The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” missing the last three pages of “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” (“Lady don’t fall backwards“)

For maximum reading pleasure I would need to draw a bath so hot it would still be warm when I emerged two hours later. I would have to stand for a bit, the fiery water giving me red socks. Then I’d kneel and lean forward on my hands, scarlet gauntlets, for a few deep breaths. Finally I’d lay down for the instant, exhausting, painful, pleasure, similar to having spent too long in a sauna.