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Category: Recommendations (page 2 of 6)

HaHaHopscotch

At present I am doing at least 63 jobs to keep the wolves from the door.  One of these is helping out a Garden Historian friend who has a business called HaHaHopscotch, which helps bring the past alive for children through the re-creation of past childhood games.  Last weekend we participated in the St George’s Festival in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens organised by the Vauxhall Trust.

Children were gathered together and had various races and games: (wooden) egg and spoon, three – legged race, tug of war, sack race, wheelbarrow race, hoop and stick , battlecock and shuttledore and others.  The children were all great – enthusiastic and well behaved and came in a variety of ages and heights.  Although discipline is a bit harder when you don’t know their names, children do seem to get along really well when they don’t know each other, and older ones are very kind and caring with younger ones.  As can be seen from the photo, this Mum who grew up in Burundi was a whizz with a hoop and stick.   A fine time was had by all.

Details can be found here:  HAHAHOPSCOTCH

The Way Of the World

It’s long.

Right – got that out of the way.

It has to be to its upmost credit that the production at the Donmar Warehouse held my attention for three hours as I was very, very tired.  I think a lot of that has to do with the intimacy of the venue where you can pretty much touch the actors, or feel as if you can even in the Circle, and a superb cast.  Take the first scene.  I happily watched it but only got hold of a little bit of plot exposition and character relations plus a few witticisms, whilst remaining lost on about 80% of the conversation between the two friends talking in a coffee house.

I better add here that

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Birth Marks

Birth Marks Book Cover Birth Marks
Hannah Wolfe 1
Sarah Dunant
Simon and Schuster
1992

I've read all but one of Sarah Dunant's novels set in Renaissance Italy, but I knew she had started her published writings with crime.  Three of them feature P.I. Hannah Wolfe. Being written in 1992, it is unnerving to read a book where no one has a mobile phone, and so solving an investigation is so very different from today, a mere 25 years on.  It's in the style of Chandler with a struggling, lonesome private investigator, full of sardonic quips and cynical views of life, but also a single woman aware of her place in society and in the eyes of other people - both men and women. This gives the book a nice edge without it feeling as if it is dealing with "issues".  The plot is speedy but filled with sadness as well as mystery. It's interesting to see a well established author at the beginning of their career, especially as her recent books have such different settings, though they still concern women swimming against the expected tide.  If you want a short, thoughtful crime page-turner this fits the bill, though as it is out of print in UK, I read it as a gift from someone who loves second-hand bookshops.

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man Book Cover The Chalk Man
C J Tudor
Penguin
2018
Hardback

I suspect this book will get a lot of fuss when the paperback comes out later this year, and I will not be surprised if a film comes along at some point later (which personally I would avoid if it does). Having said that, it deserves to have a runaway success.  Without question this is a way-cut-above-the-rest novel.  I was disappointed with the opening: yet another description of a dead girl, and not long after a stupendously grisly depiction of an accident. However what makes this book stand out, is its subversion of expectations that continue to remain credible, pushing on the narrative and delving into the characters' minds.  One narrator is split in two by telling the story as a child and as an adult.  It continually confounded me, but its revelations (maybe too strong a word) are subtle but vice-like gripping.  It is a real web of a book and if the author is the spider in the middle, I got caught and eaten alive at the end.  Brilliantly written.

- I must add here that I listened to the audio book read by the mesmeric Andrew Scott and by Asa Butterfield who also does a fine job.  (And if you do listen to it, you just have to accept the fact that despite the doubling younger/older but same character narrator of the book, in the audio version Butterfield is English and Scott is Irish - it matters not)

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

The Travelling Cat Chronicles Book Cover The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Hiro Arikawa
Penguin
2017

This is a gentle and very moving account of one man's road trip around the friends from his past.  The objective of his journey is to find someone to look after his cat.  Gradually tiny layers are peeled away as we learn about him through these meetings and flashbacks into his past where the friendships began.  Added to this the voice of his cat is mixed into the narrative, and if you are not a cat lover, don't let this put you off.  The device is not cute but another way of quietly revealing what lies beneath the surface of this man's life.  It is utterly beautiful. The author prefers to show rather than tell, allowing the reader to construct the jigsaw puzzle-like nature of the narrative.  It being a road trip, the landscape and places of Japan play  a very important part in the proceedings.  The descriptions are vivid. The book is  sad but life affirming, and often very funny.  It slowly got under my skin and entered my heart.

The York Realist

Despite having a keen interest in this play with its North Yorkshire setting (I grew up not far from York), I have never seen or read it.  My expectations were high as the reviews had been glowing, and I had taken part in one of the Donmar’s Open Workshops on it the morning of the day I had seen it

– and a big plug here for the Workshop which was excellent and a huge thank you to Lynette Linton for running it with such infectious enthusiasm –

but I have to say ultimately I was left slightly disappointed, without quite

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Fanny and Alexander

(Probably best to skip/skim read the second paragraph)

My favourite film, in the sense that it is the film closest to my heart and affects me on a personal level like no other, is Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.

Scandinavian 19th century drama has fascinated me since I studied Drama at university, and my love of it led me into the theatre and film world of Bergman. In my twenties I had a tendency

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Beginning 2

I know I could set the cat amongst the pigeons with the above photo having added lettuce and lemon, but I could not find a photo I could use with just the fingers and bread.  I could have gone out and bought the ingredients for a photo shoot in my kitchen….but it’s cold outside.  (Shame on me for not having any already in the freezer and this being north-east London I only have wholegrain bread)

I’m still riding high on my new job which is working backstage on

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Strictly Come Dancing

Let’s make it clear.

I do not watch Strictly every week.  I do not record it and watch it over Monday and Tuesday evenings. I do not spend Tuesday and Wednesday mornings reading Heidi Stephens’s “Strictly As It Happened blog in the Guardian.  I do not watch It Takes Two up to four times a week. I do not think about it as I am going to sleep or in my yoga class on a Monday evening.  I do not go to the toilet in the middle of the night and get back into bed thinking about it.

Right.  Just wanted to be clear.

So this week was hard.  Tears over Jonnie whom I have secretly wanted to win but knew he wouldn’t.  He has been a gentleman and a gentle man.  Laid back, reserved but at ease with  himself, and rather than showing an ambition to win as you would expect from an athlete, just wanting to learn and get a bit better each week.  And he got to Blackpool and what an exit.  His final thank you to the judges for treating him as an equal to all the other contestants was so moving.  I don’t use the word of people very much, but he is an inspirational man.  And when the gorgeous livewire Oti (who will partner me when I go on Strictly) said being with him had been life changing, who would doubt that.  Seeing his surgeon who amputated his leg, and his friend from school who had pushed him in his wheelchair (because as Jonnie said, he – his friend – needed someone to be his friend) dancing in front of them were great moments.  How they must have felt watching him dance is hard to imagine.  I am so going to miss watching him.

So who are we left with?

Professional dancer Alexandra Burke.  Not the brightest light in the house. She can stop the tears and telling us it was the hardest dance yet.  I’m hoping people will get bored with her as she’s only had one score out of the 30’s since the beginning.  And there’s no warmth between her and Gorka, the most beautiful man in the world.

Debbie McGee.  Well on age I think she is amazing but she is a trained ballerina.  But I love her with Giovanni (“Deb-eh”).  They seem genuinely to adore each other, but sadly no romance.  I struggled with the Spice Girl episode which frankly was a bit weird. Tess did say Geri had sent her a message but we never heard what the message was…pause for thought…

Joe McFadden. I thought he was a bit vacant but I have really grown to like him.  He is a bit like a big puppy and comes across as genuine.  I love it when they are all waiting to hear who is through to the following week and everyone looks like they are about to mount the scaffold except Joe who just can’t hold back a grin at the camera.

Gemma Atkinson.  She’s Northern so a superstar by default.   Prejudices aside she never has make-up in the VT’s which is sweet and I think she is the real dark horse.  She’s a grafter. I’d like her to win.  And she and Aljaz are hilarious together.

Davood Ghadami.  Now he really annoyed me at the beginning as I thought he was full of himself but as time has gone on I have realised he is just very serious – nay intense – and now he has not only lightened up but is proving himself a grand dancer.  I did have a problem with his James Bond shirt in Blackpool, though Tess and the judges obviously didn’t.

Mollie King. Not the greatest dancer but she’s had a really  hard time to fight on psychologically after two dance-offs.   I like the fact she’s so attractive and admits to finding it hard to be sexy in the Latin numbers. She and AJ are like Von Trapp siblings.

Susan Calman.  Oh Susan we all love you. Well most of us. You and Kevin are a match made in heaven. Part of me thinks it should have been you and not Jonnie.  What does Saturday hold for us to see???

Yes Aston’s gone but he’s setting up a dance school which is brilliant.

Shirley.

Yes we need to talk about Shirley.  I like her but her scoring is a bit odd.  Once you have Craig’s you can generally work out Darcey’s and Bruno’s.  But she does throw in quite a few from leftfield. There’s a lot of pressure on her and I don’t think she’s comfortable in the role yet.  She needs to do another series.

Some of my favourite bits that spring to mind:

“It’s hard for the man”

Eammon Holmes and son in every week till Ruth was out

Claudia’s and Tess’s dresses

Darcey’s earrings and Shirley’s glasses

Celebrities who get motion sickness spinning

“I’ve  got a friend for life.”

 

I’d probably enjoy Strictly if I ever watched it.

The Butterfly Effect

This is a Podcast review.  It’s on Audible, though I believe extending to iTunes.  It’s by Jon Ronson, whom I think has become a very perceptive and sympathetic writer and broadcaster.  I say sympathetic because the last podcast I listened to, S- Town, left me morally uncomfortable despite its gripping exposure of the dark underbelly of an American town held me in its thrall throughout.

I think the beauty of the Podcast – well, I would say Radio because

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