June 27, 2007

Tinternet

Back online at last! Huzzah! (I’m not quite sure why I’ve taken to saying “huzzah”, I never used to). I spent most of last night dismantling the burglar alarm and trying not to get electrocuted, while the alarm screeched at me that someone was tampering with the system (alarm is too clever for its own good). Became obsessively convinced that this was why my new broadband wasn’t working, then BT sent me an email today to explain they were a day late turning it on. Ah.

New flat is wondrous, though it’s strange to live by myself. Peaceful though, for the most part, and I’ve stopped being scared! I spent the first month or so convinced that I would come home to find my home had disintegrated while I was at work, but now I’m starting to feel a bit more faith in the capabilities of the builders.

Mostly life has returned to normal after a month or 2 of excitement / anxiety while I was waiting for the purchase to complete and move in. I have been very busy at work, which is starting to take its toll. I feel like I need to spend my 3 weeks of leave in August asleep. Failing that, I need to spend the next 10 hours of my life asleep, so I’m going to sign off at this point…


March 23, 2007

Excitement… in no particular order of importance

1. I got my blog back (for the second time). God bless WGA.
2. I am going to Florence next weekend for Adam’s birthday (a BIG secret).
3. I am very lucky to have such good friends and family who love and support me.
4. I enjoyed my training course this week, especially the Sunningdale diet (lots and lots of lovely food).
5. I am generally feeling more positive, probably because I have stopped trying to live on three mashed up lentils and a carrot stick a day.
6. I am due to complete the purchase of my flat on 4 April, so I should be able to move over Easter.
7. I discovered facebook.
8. I am going to the zoo tomorrow to celebrate Leonie’s birthday.
9. I am going to the Isle of Mull with Leonie, Thomas and Helen in May.
10. It’s the start of the weekend and I can sleep loads.

I am so lucky!


February 26, 2007

Bulgarian men are very, very excellent

First day - nervous!My dreams will be forever haunted by the dulcet tones of our ski instructor Daffy shrieking “now put your skis wiiiiiiiider”, “snow plough snow plough snow plough” and “now put your skis parallel” up the mountain to me.

I was quite proud of myself on the first couple of days of our ski holiday in Bulgaria – no tears, and not too much falling over either. I did shout quite a lot of abuse at a ski school of around twenty under 5 year olds who cut me up halfway down a green run, but I felt that this was a perfectly measured reaction to what had, after all, been a bit of a nasty shock.

It was only as we started to try out some of the slightly more challenging routes that I suddenly found myself hurtling into deep banks of snow at great speed, clutching at my instructor’s arm and begging for a piggyback ride down off the big scary mountain, and sitting in the snow wailing like said 5 year olds because I couldn’t manage to get myself upright again.

A ski holiday is most definitely character building if nothing else. Yet in a way it’s curiously relaxing, because the constant fear of plummeting to one’s death or getting run over by a snow plough at least means that there is little time left to fret about the everyday trivia that usually unsettles the mind.

I went from feeling as if I was about to sit an impossible exam at the start of each day to walking into The Happy Duck at its end with a big grin on my face. The terror that I endured each morning never entirely dissipated, but it was good terror, terror that kept me on my toes. You might even say it was character-building terror.

MountainBulgaria comes highly recommended – cheap, high quality ski instruction, tasty food and beautiful mountain scenery. Besides the mysterious vomiting that came over many of us halfway through the trip, the woodsmoke tinged mountain air did wonders for my stress levels and general well-being. And, in the words of Jifko, the man who drove us to and from the ski resort each day, “Bulgarian men are very, very excellent.”

Actually, the ones I saw weren’t, but never mind.

We spent our last day having a posh day of lunching and afternoon tea in Sofia, which was a welcome reprise for the muscles in my legs, bum, stomach, arms, shoulders, feet, back, hands etc. etc. And despite my slightly tongue-in-cheek account of the week and moments of childlike stompiness and fear, I did genuinely love the sensation of racing down a mountain, the wind rushing against my face, the soft swoosh swoosh of my skis moving over the powdery snow.

Beautiful, powerful, overwhelming, emotional, terrifying. I want to go again!

Lots more pictures here


February 25, 2007

Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian

Book front cover
Title:
Blood Meridian: Or, the Evening Redness in the West (Picador Books)
Author:
Cormac McCarthy
ISBN:
0330312561
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

There is no way I would have chosen to read this book were it not for the fact that this is the book that Benedict has picked for book group this month. I am only halfway through it (as Sarah Waters has been distracting me today!) and while I can’t say that I’m enjoying it in the slightest, much of the language and imagery really is quite stunning. Nevertheless, there is only so much apolocalyptic nihilism and violent scalpings I can take, especially on a “school night”. I’ll write a proper review of this once I finish it, hopefully before our book group meeting on Tuesday evening. In the meantime, I’d give this 1 out of 10 for enjoyment, but a 7 or 8 for literary merit (the technical way in which our book group rates the books we read!), giving it an average of 4 out of 10 or 2 stars.


Sarah Waters – The Night Watch

Book front cover
Title:
The Night Watch
Author:
Sarah Waters
ISBN:
1844082466
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

I emerged from reading Sarah Waters’ latest offering, The Night Watch, desperate to read it again, and read it from back to front this time round.

The novel moves backwards in time from 1947 to 1944 and then back to 1941; the hollow, displaced positions its characters find themselves in at the beginning are gradually explained by the revelation of their history. Just as Kay, the wartime ambulance driver who desperately seeks distraction from the drag of her empty post-war hours, often watches the second half of a film first- “people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures” – so the back-to-front time scheme for this novel imbues seemingly insignificant events with dramatic irony in the light of what the reader knows is to follow.

Unlike Waters’ previous three novels, The Night Watch is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Second World War and its aftermath. The historical framework is as significant as the Victorian period in which her previous novels are set, for it offers rich opportunities for emotional upheavals, character transformations and moments of happenstance, as well as enabling boundaries of class, gender, sexuality and wealth to be transcended.

The post-war years with which the novel opens are a time of exhausted listlessness, a sort of clumsy reshuffling of a world that refuses to fit neatly back into the pre-war order. The wartime landscape appears disconnected from temporal and geographical ties, all conventional markers erased to create a nameless, displaced limbo state in which characters must exist and form connections with one another.

As the city landscape of London is transformed by the night time air raids into a dark, eerie place fraught with both danger and possibility, the characters themselves are transformed as “so many impossible things were becoming ordinary, just then.” As well as death and loss, there are new choices and opportunities available for heroic action, shifts in sexual identity and newfound freedoms.

The characterisation and interaction between characters is what really stands out for me – that and the power of Sarah Waters’ storytelling and the narrative connections that she makes between events and characters.

I found myself identifying with Helen and wishing desperately that there would be some reprise for her at the end of the novel, but ultimately knowing that the unhappy, insecure state of emotional neediness in which we witness her at the end of the first section of the novel is the way it is likely she will remain. The other characters are equally drained and disappointed, struggling to patch up their lives and continue their existence in the aftermath of wartime trauma. In this way the novel lacks what Americans might call “closure”, which is frustrating for the reader but ultimately has more integrity and interest than some neat, facile tying up of loose ends.

The only part of the novel that did not entirely ring true for me was Duncan’s relationship with Alec. Duncan’s character and awkward situation is portrayed beautifully throughout the novel and and anticipation builds throughout his time in prison, but in the end I felt that the dialogue between the two young men and the reason for Duncan’s imprisonment was both false and simplistic.

However, on the whole the weaving together of all these stories against the historical backdrop of wartime Britain works beautifully well, and as such The Night Watch is both astutely and compassionately observed and compelling to read – my favourite Sarah Waters’ novel to date.


December 15, 2006

Premature new year's resolutions

It’s a bit early for these, but I’m diseased and bored and off work with little to do besides listen to the radio, read out-of-date newspapers and surf the internet…

My resolutions are:

  • To get to work before at least 9.30am every day.
  • To train for and run the London marathon (if I manage to get a charity place, having been rejected from the main ballot)
  • To make more of an effort to meet new people and socialise with old friends

December 09, 2006

Waiting to be rejected

Still not heard about the marathon, but my dad is the latest person not to get a place. I suspect my very own rejection letter is waiting for me up in Yorkshire, but unfortunately have no way of checking this fact as my mum and Stephen have gone away for the weekend.

So I’m still keeping my fingers crossed…

Battersea run 09 DecemberGot a bit lost on my weekend run today, which meant that yet again it was slightly longer than anticipated (7.5 miles according to mapmyrun, which took me an hour and 15 – not bad considering the number of times I had to pause to cross roads). If I carry on with this urban running malarkey, pretty soon I’m going to have a knowledge of London’s streets to rival that of any black cab driver. Today’s discovery was Battersea Park, which I have run through once before, but hadn’t appreciated what a truly lovely park it is.

When I came home I made spinach and potato soup (developing quite a thing for homemade soup), cleaned the bathroom, and now I’m about to reread next week’s bookclub book for the second time.


Seeing not just looking at the world

Writing about web page http://www.lambethcollege.ac.uk/courses/course_list.cfm?widCall1=customWidgets.courses_list_courseDetail&cit_id=508&cta_tax_id=483&showCourseKey=true

canonSo excited! Just applied for a beginners photography course at Lambeth college starting in January. I was actually looking online for British Sign Language courses (feeling suitably inspired by watching the BSL translators at the ODI conference on Thursday – signing looks like such a beautiful language) but then my artistic side got the better of me and I signed up for this instead!


December 03, 2006

More running…

Running is going very well atm – am keeping fingers crossed that I get a place in the London marathon. The chances of getting a place are slim, but then surely the fact I’ve been rejected 3 times already should boost the probability of getting a place (or not… it doesn’t work like that does it?)

Back in Yorkshire this weekend and had a wonderful, blustery run along the ridge on the opposite side of the valley to my mum’s house. Sunshine, great views, and cold crisp clean air. Even the hills didn’t phase me! I later realised this was because I was being pushed up them by the gale that was blustering away behind me, and the part of the run that should have been easiest (the flat run along the valley bottom back to Denby Dale) felt like running into a very violent wind tunnel. I had to walk the last mile into the village because I felt so worn down by the wind in my face.

Run 3 December 2006Anyway, considering this, I’m pleased with my time. MapMyRun.com reckons it was 7 miles, and I managed to get home in an hour and thirteen (just over 10 minute miles but I did walk for the last 13 minutes). And incidentally, for runners who haven’t heard of it, Map My Run is great stuff – clicking on the thumbnail on the right shows my route today (and it calculates speed / average time taken to cover a mile and calories expended).

Fingers crossed for the marathon…. I really want a place this time because the training is actually going really well at the moment!


November 26, 2006

Sunday late November

It’s that time of year and I’m determined not to get ill despite the best efforts of my fellow commuters to infect me with their lurgies. All the pretty autumnal leaves are turning to mulch on the commons and in the parks and everything is going earthy and heavy and saturated with squelchiness. I haven’t been for my weekend run yet and it’s going to get dark soon, plus I’m meeting a friend for coffee in 40 minutes so unless I want to power run at double my normal speed…

BunnyTired, so tired, feel like I’m on a conveyer belt and I have to keep running. Trying to be more positive (no more black clothes, I’m only 25) and do some voluntary work and make an effort to do things that scare me (like meeting new people).

Dreamed I was back in Taiwan the other night; I felt free.

I’m going back to Yorkshire next weekend. I want to breathe clean air and run in open spaces (not looping round and round the same circuits on Clapham Common stopping for traffic whenever I hit a road), and sleep in a quiet dark room where I don’t wake up the moment the neighbours upstairs slam a door.

I’ll just have to run with the gym bunnies this evening. Hop, hop, hop along bunnies. I’ll run into work on Wednesday morning too. 5 and a half miles. I hope I get a place in the London marathon this year…


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