Sunday, April 30, 2006

Marry Me

An appropriate choice for the fortnight gone by. Carey Marx is a friend of Elvis P, and Elvis recommended I buy this book. Of course he recommended I buy it new, but I did not. I found it in the Oxfam Bookshop on Byers Road in Glasgow. An excellent Oxfam shop, I urge everyone to patronise it. Carey didn't mind though, he said that he would not be happy until someone told him they'd read a half-burnt copy they found in a skip.

Anyway, the book is good, which is a relief, because there's always that trepidation when you approach a book by someone you know, or someone who knows someone you know. Basically Carey decided that 2005 was going to be his year of adventure, and one of those adventures was going to be that he would find his perfect woman and marry her. Conveniently, this turned out to be an easy pitch for an Edinburgh show and a book. It caught people's imaginations. And, bless him, he worked really really hard at it.

I won't tell you what happens in the end, because that wouldn't be fair. I will tell you that I liked his choice to stick to the storytelling aspect of it at the expense of jokes (unless I've just really insulted him, and actually it was supposed to have jokes galore on every page and I've missed them), and that he does a lot to banish the stigma that attaches to dating in the UK. Yes, I would read another book by him. I would also go and see his standup.

So there you are. Oh! And the book has Elvis P in a cameo appearance. So it was definitely worth it.


Do you see? They live on the plains.

This is a lovely, delicate story set in 1980s rural America in a small town. It's a little like A History of Violence, but without the violence. It's a little like No Great Mischief, but without the immigration. It's a little like... it's a lot like a lot of other books, really. The story is nicely told, the characters are all nicely painted, you read it through pretty quickly.

It was recommended to me by some of my relatives who go to book groups, and in a way it's a perfect book group book. It doesn't take long to read, but contains a lot you can talk about. There are a number of identifiable characters, some children, a little mental illness and a desirable male lead. Which isn't to do the book down at all, I just noticed it.

Watson's Apology

Another novel that is based on actual events from the nineteenth century, this one is everything that Harry Thompson's is not. Short, bitter, small-minded, shrill. This is the first Beryl Bainbridge book I've read that I really haven't liked. It's based on the case of a clergyman who was found guilty, after forty odd years of marriage, of brutally murdering his wife and then attempting to take his own life, claiming that she drove him to it. Bainbridge's apology for his actions is a catalogue of sadness, missed opportunities, tiny triumphs in mediocre lives, repressed sexuality, misunderstandings, and a very boring court case. I didn't even read it all the way to the end, just skimmed the court proceedings. I'm sure she was making some kind of point with them, but for the life of me I can't figure out what.

This Thing of Darkness

This is Harry Thompson's first novel, and if I'd commissioned it myself, I couldn't have asked for something more suited to my own tastes.

Write me a book, I would say, that fictionalises real events and people. Give me a tragically flawed hero in the old naval mould, who commands a ship with panache and courage, and who is constantly fighting with his naturalist sidekick, who has many old-fashioned ideas of duty and kinship and who is always on the side of the weak and downtrodden. Give him some interesting scientific ideas that are rejected by the establishment but which are ultimately proved to be correct.

Except I would have said, don't kill him at the end. Leave it open for a sequel. Perhaps that's why it's as well I wasn't the one commissioning this book, because then you wouldn't have got the story of Captain Robert Fitzroy, commander of the Beagle and exuberantly religious foil to Charles Darwin and his new scientific discoveries. The whole book is a marvel, very much in the Patrick O'Brian vein, full of intellectual discoveries and quarrels and adventures and boys' fun, but, because the characters are real people, it's also full of the nastiness, selfishness, sickness and depression from which real people suffer in a way that fictional people do not. Darwin comes over, not as unlikeable, but as ambitious, vain, and a little spoiled. Fitzroy himself is a manic depressive and something of a Tory snob. Darwin is prepared to make his own mind up about the things he sees and hears, while Fitzory shoehorns everything into his existing view of the world. Darwin is the fittest who survived, Fitzroy is the old order who didn't.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Preserved Killick

Our cat, Killick, died last night at the vet's. He was a little under the weather on Tuesday night, and was very sick all day Wednesday. I took him to the vet yesterday morning and they kept him in and gave him antibiotics and fluids, but he didn't bounce back.

Poor guy was only a year and a half old. He never got the hang of retracting his claws and so you would often come upon him in a room, patiently waiting with one paw above his head for you to free him. He would chase after hair elastics and bring them back for you to throw again. He would crouch at the top of the stairs when you threw his ball up there, his ears flattened against his skull and his eyes crazy wide as if he was going to spring into action any second. Then he would just watch the ball go right over his head and go back to looking at you again.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

We went there last Tuesday and sat around in the cold and had a lovely afternoon. When it was too cold to sit outside and read our books, we went inside and looked at exotic plants. Man, banana plants have HUGE leaves. Huge.

I have discovered a new pet hate

Because of course I don't have enough of them already.

I hate vegetarians who sit near you at dinner and make the noise of the animal you're eating. It's tiresome and childish and does not make me want to stop eating the animal (I'm 36, for fuck's sake. I have thought about the connection between the fuzzy wuzzy ickle baa lambs in the field and the lovely Moroccan-inspired stew in front of me, thanks), but actually just makes me want to club the vegetarian over the head, kill them and eat them, while all the time making a little whingey vegetarian noise.

It happened at dinner the other night. Eventually a plate of chicken came out and the person in question made chicken noises. "Well done," I said "that's the sound a chicken makes. Good girl." Then she shut up. Perhaps she felt her work was done.

I came home and ate the dogs afterwards, just to prove a point.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I've been to a lot of weddings in my time, and I'm pleased to report that this was my favourite. There's something about watching a sibling who you love like a brother get married. It's got all the benefits of your own wedding (you get to dress up nice, go to the hairdressers, see people you've known for years and really quite like, be made a fuss of) with none of the drawbacks (expense, nerves (although I was nervous), talking to people you've invited out of duty but don't really like, standing around for endless photos). You know pretty much everyone there and, if you've always been friendly with your family members, you like pretty much everyone there. The added bonus here is that the Brother's new family is great too, and we all get on really well.

Apart from some technical hitches with the hotel and the weather - it pissed down rain ALL DAY on the Saturday, so there isn't one single outside photo where we're not getting pissed down rain on - the whole event was magnificent. Speeches were great, and were given before the meal, which has the advantages of allowing the top table to enjoy their meal, and giving the guests who may not have known each other all that well a nice topic of conversation. Everyone cried shamelessly, including the best man and the groom, and we all got to dance to Gay Bar later on. Which is the very best kind of party.

Gleddoch House vs. The Kirklee Hotel

It's hard not to play compare and contrast with two places you've stayed on your holidays, and I've no desire to start fighting that temptation now. Apart from the fact that you would have great difficulty fitting any sort of a wedding party into the Kirklee Hotel in Glasgow (more of a guest house, really), it wins hands down in all comment card categories.
*£72 a night for two people
*Cooked breakfast brought to your room
*Nice man who greets you in a smiley way and dashes up the stairs with your suitcase
*£2.00 for a bottle of beer
*Cheap to get to
*Two minutes' walk from Byers Road, twenty minutes from Stevie and Lesley's house
*Tucked away in lovely Edwardian square
*Handy folder full of facts about stuff to do and nice places to eat
*Small bed, but comfy like home
*Functional bathroom, you wouldn't live with it, but it's okay for a few days (and spotless)
*Cheap bathroom products, but you do get a face cloth, two towels, shampoo and conditioner, and soap

Gleddoch House
*£115 a night for two people (special wedding rate)
*Quite good breakfast buffet till 10am, and then if you miss it they bring you a breakfast in the bar
*Nice lady who greets you in a smiley way, but no lifts and no-one to even show you where your room is, never mind carry your bags
*£3.50 for a bottle of beer (and they ran out of Budvar by Sunday night and we had to drink Miller, euuchh, no thanks)
*£25 in a taxi from Glasgow
*Miles from anywhere (which is nice if there's a big group of you, actually. And the views were just lovely)
*Absolutely no information in the room about anything. You have to guess what time breakfast is, guess if there's room service, remain ignorant of the health club facilities, and so on
*Huge, giant bed
*Lovely gushing shower, with Molton Brown shower products, and a shower cap. But! No face cloth, no conditioner, and the cleaning was patchy
*hard to work telly (but there was a DVD player in it, so we could play CDs)

A lot of the Gleddoch's problems stemmed from the fact that they recently changed hands and a lot of staff left, so the place is woefully understaffed and the same four people seemed to be doing all the work looking after about 50 of us for the weekend. But the refit seems to be a bit of a shoddy affair - Mister Monkey tried to open the window in our bedroom and part of the frame came off in his hand. But I hear from those who care about such things that the health club part of the hotel was brilliant.

The Kirklee, on the other hand, is a little family run guest house with seven rooms in it where they really, really want you to have a nice time and come back soon. I would highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Glasgow for a weekend.

Neither place provided broadband services, which in this day and age wouldn't exactly be difficult. We managed to pick up a pretty good wireless signal in the bar of the Gleddoch, but in the Kirklee, nothing.

(I'm also amused that Gleddoch House appear to have had their domain, er, poached. Well done!)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

This year's model

Also happens to be this month's Media Crush.

Isn't he cute, with the glasses and all?

I promise proper blogging soon, featuring wedding stuff and so on. But for now, the loveliness of a new Doctor.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Things are looking up

Do you see???

But they are, a bit. I'm in the middle of some hectic contract work at the moment, I've got two job applications on the go, irons in the fire, all that stuff. Could be an interesting year.

And The Weddening next week. Excitement.