Sunday, 31 March 2013

Bad news for Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Well, yes. He's been dead for 120 years for a start.

Not to mention the fact that his mother died when he was 13; he was gay in 19th century Russia; he struggled financially throughout his life; he eventually married, only for the marriage to break down after only two and a half months, and he was so plagued by depression that he killed himself by deliberately (some historians believe) drinking a glass of water during a cholera epidemic.

With all that going on you'd suspect that dropping six places on the Classic fm Hall of Fame isn't going to bother him that much.

Whatever the presenters might think.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Hope: A Tragedy

I'm unusual, I think, among bloggers.

I don't have a book in me.

I'm not saying I don't enjoy writing (obviously), or that I don't enjoy (very much) people reading what I write (hint) but I've got no half written scraps of a novel, no idea, no characters bursting to be given life on the page.  Fundamentally I've got no imagination. Not like that anyway.

So I'm always a little bit in awe of people who do.  Who can wake up one morning and think:  "Here's an idea for a book: what if someone bought a house in a country town and then found Anne Frank living in the attic?"

To take an example not entirely at random.

That's it.  The germ (at least as I imagine it) of the plot of Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander.  Doesn't it make you want to read it? Isn't it such a simple, genius idea?   Imagine that Anne Frank hadn't died.  Imagine what that would do to the iconography and industry around her and her diary.  Imagine what it would be like to be a geriatric Anne Frank, still hiding.  Or the person who found her.

It's a fascinating book. An extraordinary book.  A book that did make me laugh and didn't make me cry, rather to my surprise.  A book that, if I think about it too much, I find very disturbing and frightening and really rather bleak, but which I recommend to you anyway.

In the spirit of hope: I hoped, when I picked up The Drop by Michael Connolly (lent to me by a friend) that it would be better than I was expecting.  It wasn't.  Not a tragedy, but a waste of time nonetheless.

Images, as usual, from Amazon. Thank you to them.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Back to Basics

I've got a new look.  It's supposed to be less cluttered, more calming; less off-putting, more inspiring of a desire to spend time here (for me, mostly, but you too).

Is it all those things?

Or is it just dull to look at and slow to load?

Thoughts please.  And if anyone really hates it (and knows a web designer who fancies a play on blogger) do get in touch...

Death of a butcher

We punch above our economic weight, here in the Borders.

In our small town (population about 7,000 I think), we have, in addition to a large out of town Sainsbury's, a Lidl and two Co-ops, the usual array of not very exciting high street shops (Boots, Smiths, Dotty Ps), a posh interiors shop, a gentlemen's outfitters (I kid you not),  four sparkly tat shops (that may not be how they market themselves), various independent clothes and shoe shops, three bakers, three coffee shops,  two florists, two hardware stores, forty-eight (possibly slight exaggeration) fishing tackle shops and two butchers, one ok (but with better haggis) and one great.

Until yesterday.

Because yesterday, without warning, one of the butcher's shops shut.  It was the better one, of course.  There's no sign of explanation on the door, it's just closed up, and the man mending the road outside is performing a public service telling sad-faced sausage buyers (the sausages were particularly good and the other butchers doesn't make them at all (presumably having given up in the face of the former competition)) that it's gone.

The details of why and how aren't public yet, if they ever will be, but the rumour in town is that even the staff didn't know until Tuesday night.

And this feels like a tragedy for two reasons.

First, of course, because they really were the best sausages for some distance, and as sausage afficionados we don't know where we're going to get them from now.

And second because although I realise this is happening across the country, and our town has not been immune - the sparkly tat shops come and go, and the two florists we have now are not the same two florists we had when we moved here nearly three years ago - I really didn't see this coming, and unlike the florists or the gift shops, I can't see another butcher coming in to fill the empty space.

I'd like to blame Sainsbury's (which opened about eighteen months ago), but while I'm sure it didn't help, I'm not sure it's as simple as that. Even if former customers have all been defecting to Sainsbury's (or the other smaller supermarkets), this will have been as a result of other pressures (lower incomes, less time) from which Sainsbury's may be reaping the benefits, but can't be said to be the cause.   In any event, too, knowing why it has happened doesn't change the reality of the situation: several families will have lost a wage earner, the town has lost a valued and long-standing business and local farmers have one fewer properly-paying outlet for their well-produced, and in many cases already barely profitable, meat.

You could say it's just a shop, but somehow the loss feels greater than that.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The meaning of art

S brought this home from nursery yesterday...

...prompting one of those sentences I swore, in pre-children days, I wouldn't use:

That's lovely, sweetheart! What is it?
 A model.
I can see that. What's it a model of?
Bottle tops.

I'm thinking we'll leave debating figurative vs. abstract art for a few more years.

Monday, 11 March 2013

How can you have the most possible fun?

Advice and thoughts needed please.

About six months back I was contacted by the brilliantly named Big Game Hunters, a company that makes garden toys and equipment, wanting to know if I wanted to review a swing.  Rather cheekily I said no, but that I was quite interested in climbing frames (rather more expensive, clearly, but if you don't ask you don't get).

Disappointingly, if not entirely surprisingly, they aren't going to send me an entirely free climbing frame, but they suggested we could trial their (free to all comers) design service to create a climbing frame just for us.

I told them our budget (up to £1,250 or thereabouts - grandparents have kindly been contributing to this fund for birthdays and Christmases), and the lovely Abby has designed not one, but four options, all of which I can tweak as desired.

The problem, of course, is that I'm not a small child and so I don't actually have any idea about what is brilliant fun for the next ten years (possibly a little optimistic in L's case, but hopefully not in M's) and what is just gimmicky and will never be played with.

Which is hopefully where you come in.  What do you think of the designs below? What did/do your children/friends/neighbours/that horrid little boy you never liked anyway enjoy?

All thoughts very welcome!

Number 1:  I think there are monkey bars going over behind the swing.  Not sure how that would work.  Like the bridge though

 Number 2:   M clearly couldn't manage that cargo net contraption yet, but should that stop us?

Number 3:  Where do we stand on the tunnel? I rather like it...

Number 4: ...But is a bridge more fun?  Answers on a postcard.

 The disclosure bit - the design service is free to everyone, but they have offered to give us some money off the actual climbing frame if we buy it.  How much, I'm not sure yet!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Five miles South (4)

Five miles south of here the ice cream has vanilla in it and the cheddar is yellow.

After nearly three years the ice cream has stopped surprising me.

The cheese, however, may take a little longer.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Appreciation at last.

My house, about five minutes ago.  B, having got the children up and dressed while I showered, is still upstairs getting dressed himself.

A asks:

Mummy, why do you do all the hard work?
What sort of hard work, Sweetheart?
All the things Daddy doesn't do.

I'll make a feminist of her yet....