A blog recording the thoughts of a mum of one who does a lot of voluntary work because it's more fun than resuming her career and is a bit worried about the state of the nation.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Books I didn't get on with

As I rather fearfully begin "The Kite Runner" I have a bit of a feeling. I am scared that it is going to be another of those books I can't get on with although lots of people think it's marvellous. Here are my top five in that category, although I have probably supressed others:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – had to stop after about a third of it as I couldn't care less about any of the characters;

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kinsolver – all that laden laboured stuff about Africa and missionaries (but it's not her as I really liked Animal Dreams);

Captain Corelli's Mandelin by Louis de Bernieres – I had to read the first chapter about 8 times and it took months to get through it. Hated Penelope Cruz in the film too although loved her before that in Spanish things;

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – got bored - I just didn't get it;

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie – can't really remember but I think it was written in a funny tense?

This makes me think of other lists I could write eg. the Top 5 books that I liked although lots of other people couldn't get on with them. Step forward Vikram Seth with your big book A Suitable Boy- I loved it!

Then there's the Top 5 books which I read for sentimental reasons knowing they wouldn't be much good because the author had peaked long ago eg. Jump by Jilly Cooper - overpopulated with appallingly embarrassing sex scenes, including one which raises rather serious issues of child abuse that Jilly ducks entirely.

And the most irritating plot twist - Freya North in Pillow Talk where two characters met again after 18 years, fell in love instantly but failed to swap phone numbers. For the next 200 pages they were unable to find one another and didn't think of googling despite the fact that they used internet for other purposes and one of them ran her own business and the other wrote pop songs and had an odd name .

And the Top 5 unreadable books written by people I know? Better stop now....

Thursday, 12 May 2011


I have finally made it to a meeting of the new local WI set up by my friend J after no-showing at the first two.

I find the pub heaving with all sorts of women that I know a bit from various phases of my life in the suburb (play group, school, ballet), and lots that I don't. Apart from having a drink and chatting, we have all come to hear a talk and try to get our heads around what it means to be at the WI really and not ironically.
I tell a member of the committee, who are all wearing hand embroidered name badges, that I grow a lot of fruit on my allotment but don't have much idea how to make jam. She says "I will take your subscription but they have very nice jam in Tescos."

The speaker is semi-famous. She used to present one of those iconic property shows where couples are taken somewhere they've never been before but might just conceivably want to move their whole lives to, and shown a series of derelict barns on a hillside full of goats, or luxury villas with artificial grass depending on their budget. She was unlucky enough to relocate to the suburb rather than to a Tuscan palazzo, and to employ one of the committee's husbands as her painter and decorator. Her anecdotes mainly focus on the celebrity editions of the show which sound entirely rigged, including her mortification when a well-known "It girl" urinated in the open air at the top of the drive leading down to a luxury Greek villa outside which she was standing with the local estate agents. The semi-famous one declares she is so enraptured by the whole WI buzz that she is going to join at some point - but she will be away filming a new show for the next 3 months.

After the talk we have the judging of the funniest holiday snap competition, which is won by a snap of a pair of white ankle socks and sandals. We then have notices. Our first outing will be to a racecourse where Peter Andre is performing. I'm not sure whether there will be any horses around but I'm pleased that being married to Katie Price didn't put him off them altogether. I won't be going on that trip but I'll probably be back to hear how to make a hanging basket with free Pimms next month.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

My Royal Wedding

We were amongst those lucky people who had booked our long weekend well before Wills packed the £28k ring for 3 weeks backpacking round Kenya. In fact we were repeating the same May Bank holiday we had had last year with our pals in a camping barn in the Brecon Beacons. Now we would be able to get away really early instead of having to do the M4 Friday night ordeal (which tends to involve too many grab bags of Worcester Sauce crisps and sitting in the fast lane with the engine switched off for a long time hoping radio Wiltshire will explain all).

But, as the day drew nearer, there was an outbreak of patriotism all around us. There was going to be a massive street party flowing from the pub past our house and down the cul-de-sac opposite. Efficient women formed a committee and posted regular updates through the door using twiddly fonts. They came round with clipboards to find out how many trestle tables we would be lending and whether we had any photos of the last known street party in 1977, or perhaps the one that took place when the siege of Mafeking was relieved?

I began to weaken and say perhaps we could do the big screen, although not the accompanying bubbly and butties. Our camping pals confirmed they would not be leaving the Midlands till Wills and Kate were safely back at Buck House glad-handing the Beckhams. Thus, at 10.45, I bundled R and M into the pub and we took up our positions next to an American couple from the next street with two tiny daughters. "O look" the female was saying as Carole Middleton entered the Abbey "That lady's the mommy of the bride so that'll be me when you get married". I remembered that marriage was not something we really focus on in our little unit, so I concentrated on the genealogical aspects of the occasion, ad libbing about the identity of some of the more obscure royals "O look there's Princess Alexandra and her daughters with Princess Pushy that Austrian one that noone likes". R, who spent several weeks thinking that Princess Anne had died when it was Princess Margaret, yawned and eyed the beer pumps longingly. M, who is well beyond the princess stage, said that everyone looked stupid and become very whingy as she had had no breakfast. I sent them both home again and concentrated, trying to ignore the American couple who had bought a bottle of bubbly and were gazing lovingly into one another's eyes, glasses raised, for most of the religious bits, which was most of it. By contrast the rest of the pub talked loudly throughout the ceremony as though it was a mere Championship league game on a Wednesday night in November. I found myself with noone to discuss my many unanswered questions with, especially about the two nuns who were sitting next to Wills and Kate during the interval.

Back in the street the awnings were going up and the music was beginning. M gazed longingly as more and more cupcakes made their way out of houses and onto the loaded tresle tables. Sadly we piled into the car, feeling like Big Society party poopers who were only hurting themselves. We sulked all the way to the Severn Bridge.

Apparently everyone had a wonderful time and, of course, by the time we got back a copy of the group photo with twiddly fonts had been posted through the door. I am definitely not going anywhere for the Diamond Jubilee and there won't even be a marriage to sit through before we start on the cupcakes.