London Stone

stone

The best thing about the internet – apart from making career-destroying comments on twitter – is winning books! I added another victory to my tally (one day Gollancz, one day) and I now have a copy of London Stone by Nick Bydwyn.

It’s a fine sharp romp through the capital in search of an ancient artifact that involves conspiracy and murder, and sits well with the British Library Crime Classics and Collins Detective Club books I’ve been devouring lately.

I thoroughly recommended it & you can buy it here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/London-Stone-Nick-Bydwyn/dp/1785891847

& you can buy British Library Crime Classic’s here (they’re all brilliant):

https://shop.bl.uk/mall/departmentpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/_488718/1/British-Library-crime-classics

& you can seek out The Detective Club here – although HarperCollins have missed a trick by not having a dedicated section of their website:

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/

 

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Gorey Story

EDWARDGOREY

http://www.edwardgoreyhouse.org/

Edward Gorey is one of my favourite illustrators and an inspiration for everything I write – even if I can’t quite pull off his magnificently fey high camp violent tragedy.

Amazingly he doesn’t belong in my pantheon of Fin de Siecle Decadents that includes Oscar Wilde, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, E. F. Benson, Saki, Walter de la Mare, and Ronald Firbank – despite perfectly capturing their Edwardian spirit of hedonistic uncanny dismay – he was born in 1925 and died in 2000.

He’s probably best remembered for designing a 1977 Broadway production of Dracula and for The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an illustrated alphabet book about the unfortunate deaths of small children.

Scandinavian Easter Witches

I had no idea that Scandinavia has a tradition of Easter witches… apparently – like Halloween – Easter is time when bad witches are thought to consort with the devil.

Somehow – from that – has sprung a tradition of young girls dressing as witches (in mainly quite pretty ‘peasant’ clothes) and people often send greetings cards with witches in the picture.

Here are a few:

 

Hamster Language

tiny hammy 1b

My beloved hamster Endeavour really did communicate through these noises & actions – and because I was impressed – I’m recording them here for future Ethologists:

ack ack ack = my bedding is in disarray, I am unhappy.

ACK! = I was arranging my bedding, put me back in my cage.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAK = the roof of my bed has come off, do something!

Filling bed with sawdust = my bed is stinky, I require fresh bedding…

Squeak, Squeak, Squeak = the slide has fallen off my platform, assist me to put it back up.

Banging a food bowl = I’m a free animal, remove me from this prison.

Hanging from the bars at the top of the cage – if you don’t immediately remove me from this cage I will fall & die & guilt will haunt your every waking hour.

Climbing into an exercise ball = I want to be in my exercise ball, close the lid.

Banging into things while in an exercise ball = I’m bored of this exercise ball, open the lid.

Falling asleep = put me back in my bed.

A desperate look while climbing = assist me to climb this item of furniture.

Head stuck in bedding or sofa, back legs waggling = I’m in a predicament, remove me at once.

Furious face, using back legs to kick bedding over her bed – I’m cold, put the heating on.

Look of alarm, then slowly moving away = AAAARRRRGGGHHHHH, it’s Scuttler, the spider!

Banging sandpit = these conditions are unacceptable, clean my sandpit.

Grooming = it will take me half an hour to prepare to leave my cage, do not shut the door.

sniffing along the open cage door – I might be going to bed, or I might not be, don’t close the door until I’ve made up my mind.

Darting = I will chew that wire & nothing will stop me.

Scenting = what are these non-me smells I keep encountering?

Paw on hand = who are you? You haven’t fed me for at least 10 minutes.

Squeaky Squeak Squeaky Squeak = unhand me, I wish to go in this direction.

Fast Waddling = I think I saw a crumb fall on the carpet, I will reach it before the hoover.

SQUEAK! = I’m missing, retrieve me.

Frantic scratching – I’m trapped in a box, let me out.

Banging food bowl, then reversing away from hand = I’m still sleepy, but require more food.

Throwing food out of cage = this is boring, I need variety.

Sitting on table = BRING ME A SNACK!

Climbing into cage & going into bed = that’s enough activity for today, please put the light out & be quiet.

Furious face with screwed up eyes (while in bed) = STOP THIS RELENTLESS NOISE!

Furious face (while in bed) = it’s morning, where is my toast?

And tons of other things – she was ALWAYS saying something.

Mid-20th Century Realism

I was going to be cruel and entitle this blog plodding melodrama but that implies a lack of affection. I find the language of serious, realistic books on the dull side – but the world they conjure up is the only one I truly feel at home in.

It goes like this:

Pre-history. Ancients: Greek, Roman, Pagan, Biblical.

Dark Ages. Renaissance. Reformation. Elizabethans. Jacobeans.

Enlightenment.

Gothicks. Romantics. Regency. Georgians. Victorians. Edwardians.

Ist World War.

Roaring 20s. Depression 30s.

2nd World War.

50s Austerity. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Mrs Thatcher. Brit Pop. Reality T.V. Social Media.

These are the great European landmarks I think by and in a quiet, and methodical way they were set in stone by the realist novels of the mid-20th Century… Three of my favourite examples being: Winston Graham, Howard Spring and R.F. Delderfield.

Graham (1908 – 2003) is famous for the Poldark saga set in Cornwall in the late 18th Century. The plots centre on love triangles, banking, mining, politics, and business rivalries. He also wrote suspense novels that explore sex and crime, and seem more old-fashioned than his historical works.

Spring (1889 – 1965) was a Welsh journalist who wrote about idealistic young socialists bumping up against establishment forces. He’s most famous for Fame Is The Spur, Shabby Tiger and My Son! My Son! (filmed as O Absalom).

Delderfield (1912 – 1972) also centred the rise of socialism in his works. His sprawling tales of school masters (To Serve Them All My Days), journalists turned spies (Diana), and nouveau local squires (A Horseman Riding By) typically take decades to unfold, most often starting before the 1st world war and ending after the 2nd.

There were angrier writers like Alan Sillitoe, more satirical writers like Kingsley Amis, darker writers like Patrick Hamilton, and deeper writers like Graham Greene, whose work will last longer… but the sheer humane normality of these three writers as they pieced together epic historical events with small lives lived as best they can creates our social history even as their books slip from our collective memory.

Stalked By Doctor Christian Jessen

UPDATE: The minute I published this the abuse seemed to stop unless he’s been cackling at me on his twitter feed while telling his fans to leave me alone… I wouldn’t know… I will never look… And it’s fine by me.

Doctor Christian presents a couple of medical programmes on Channel 4 (in the UK).

I don’t watch them.

I think he’s a bullet-head.

So he was harassing women on twitter for asking questions about breastfeeding. Not a subject I know anything about – or need to know anything about – but I tweeted to 2 women this:

I can’t stand him. He’s a misogynist narcissist.

I didn’t name him or @ him in – but because he was stalking these women (because he IS a misogynist narcissist) he came across it & he decided to set his followers on me.

About 10 of these little flying monkeys dutifully came flapping into my notifications – not a lot – he’s clearly not a popular man – but they tweet relentlessly. And I’m not one to slink off when under attack.

I replied to whatever bit of crap was in my notifications & some of them had @’d in Doctor Telly – so he saw them too.

This made the hypocrite decide I was playing the victim & harassing him.

I have never been on his profile page. I have never put his name into a search. I have never replied to a tweet that wasn’t in my notifications.

Since he started this I have called him:

a jerk

a creep

a stalker

disgusting

weird

huffy

sneaky

loathsome

no guts

a dreadful z-lister

unhinged

a crap celebrity

nasty

childish

awful

a tosser

a worthless tossbag of the highest order

that kind of arsehole

unethical

not empathetic

& said that he’s breaking the recommended social media code of his profession & has orchestrated a pile-on.

I stand by it.

He came after me – I had no interest in engaging with him.

And he does this a lot: http://unsafespaces.com/tag/christian-jessen/

I have no idea why he has the time for this – or why he’s so insecure he can’t let other people’s opinions go – but I wish he would bog off & leave us alone.

witch

I Love John Osborne

JOHN OSBORNE
JOHN OSBORNE

One of my hobbies is making up jukebox musicals in my head. For years I’ve teamed up The Pet Shop Boys with The Blackheath Poisonings (I think it would be epic) and Pulp with Look Back In Anger (although I’ve never managed to keep the plot exactly the same).

Look Back In Anger is the seminal 1956 play by John Osborne that introduced The Angry Young Man, The Kitchen Sink and the personal invective of lead character Jimmy Porter.

Jimmy is a sweet-stall sales staffer (WHAT IS THE WORD FOR THIS) living with his posh wife and Welsh best-friend in a crappy midland town, who has an affair with a snobbish actress. Most of the time on stage is taken up by Jimmy insulting everything he hates about Britain (which is everything – but mainly the class system, losing the Empire and newspapers), and wishing misery on his miserable wife, who indeed ends up miserable.

In my head his wife kills him with an iron and runs off with the actress or Jarvis Cocker depending on my mood.

John Osborne himself was famous for his rudeness, his fights with his wives, his estrangement from his only daughter and for dwindling spectacularly from Polemicist of the Zeitgeist to Pootering Old Establishment Fart. This was before social media so there was no relentless monstering or huge scandal, just a few snarky reviews and gleeful features.

His work is mostly out of fashion. It’s time-specific. It belongs in that era of post-war austerity, shiny 60s satire and 70s paranoid chic; when I think of his work I see: donkey jackets, pullovers, kipper ties, cravats, polyester maxi-dresses, big hair, pan make-up and tatty furs. I expect everything to smell of boiled cabbage or prawn cocktail. His characters are raging egotists, camp dandys, repressed hags, and Martin Luther needing a poo. His polemics are out-of-date, beside-the-point or viciously-spiteful.

But they’re brilliant.

Deep down – who doesn’t want to spend 2 hours in front of an audience slagging off every last thing that comes into your proxy hero’s head? If the audience hates it – then you’re an Enfant Terrible. If the audience loves it – you’re the Spokesperson of Your Generation. John Osborne had the – great, fabulous, fantastic – founding career of our New Writing Theatre World but – in our climate of story re-armament – it’s just not on.

So I will wander around abandoned 1980s children’s parks making Jimmy sing Common People to his wife.