Book crossing, book fair, it was all happening across the street from me, so the idle roughseas legs didn’t have to walk too far to see if there were any goodies for her to snaffle. So this will be a book post with a few reviews thrown in, including some very good reads.
But first, on the subject of snaffles and freebies …
Having successfully, well almost, apart from a couple of leaks that will get fixed, sorted the plumbing for the block, the vamp upstairs generously offered us her flat screen TV as she was getting a new one.
‘I know you don’t have one, so I thought I would offer it to you first.’
Wow! Although where to put it in our overcrowded flat was another matter.
And we’d also need to get a rip-off contract from the local supplier for satellite or whatever it is.
‘It’s analogue,’ she told Partner. I don’t think she did. She more than likely said it was either a) not analogue or b) digital.
Regardless a free TV is a free TV even though we have no time to watch one, and I don’t have the desire.
‘I’m dismantling it tonight, and I’ll bring it down tomorrow.’
Partner could hardly contain himself with excitement. I wondered how much I could get for it in Friday Ads after it had sat unused for a while.
Coming back in the door on Sunday afternoon with Snowy, I bumped into her. She was carrying some disgusting-looking MDF out of the block to dump in the street. I don’t like MDF which is one reason I don’t have fitted kitchens. Or fitted anything. Or tat furniture. Wood should be solid and last far longer than I will. And age better than I will.
‘Hahaha,’ she laughed, carrying out the huge pieces of tat as though she was Zena. ‘Your partner thought I was giving him a TV, hahaha,’ and she collapsed again in laughter as she dumped it tidily on the street. Her flatmate held the door open for me.
‘I’m not going out,’ said the flatmate, and pointed to her jimjams. I can’t remember the last time I saw this woman dressed. This was of course, Sunday afternoon. Given that Spanish women do it all the time in my pueblo and so do the Gibbos on the local estate where Partner works, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But hey, we live in a posh part of the city.
‘Why would I give him a new TV? I’m getting new units. This is what I’m getting rid of,’ added the vamp, as she came back for the tat that her flatmate wouldn’t take out.
I wandered upstairs laughing and relieved that I didn’t need to find space for a nasty intrusive noisy large TV.
Partner was also laughing his socks off. Even he thought it was funny. He started to tell me the story but I told him I had already heard it from the vamp’s mouth.
She’d originally said he wanted us to have the TV (!) because she didn’t want the Moroccans who come to scavenge our bins for rich pickings to take it. This TV MDF unit thing was so bad – and mouldy – that even the Roccies never took it. A British couple looked at it as they needed to put up a shelf, and they rejected it. It got taken away by our street cleaning service.
Apart from anything else, we actually have a TV unit left behind by the previous occupant of the flat. It is full of books, and hopefully will stay so.
Black Out by John Lawton
There are a number of books with this title but this is somewhat older (1995) and is set in the London Blitz of 1944. I’m not a fan of wartime books but this looked interesting and sounded as though there was more to it than met the eye.
It’s basically a crime novel, or rather that’s how it starts out. Smart unconventional copper has been exempted from signing up to fight in WW2. His family were rich Russian émigrés and he didn’t do what was expected, unlike his brother who joined the RAF. He is an instinctive police officer rather than a plod.
The beginning is not particularly gripping but after a few pages I was wrapped. The main character is brilliant, partly because he isn’t perfect. He breaks the rules at work. He has two women on the go at once, one of whom is connected with the case. He totally gets it wrong. Flawed heros. Don’t you love them?
There is good dialogue, excellent depiction of characters, some sex and some swearing, enough to make the story valid, but not too much to over use it. Just right. It has action. Lots of it. Although it is complicated, even roughseas managed to follow the plot, and certainly couldn’t have guessed the end. Working out who was going to be the baddie was such fun.
So if it started off as an ordinary crime scene novel, the ending was very good, very good indeed. Better a good ending than a good beginning?
I read hard copy books very quickly indeed. Partner doesn’t. He was half-way through it in a day. Three hundred and forty two pages of an excellent read.
Marks out of five?
Well, I couldn’t fault it. Not even any glaring proofing errors or inconsistencies. Given that it is crime/thriller/spy, it is pretty near the 5s. It is difficult to compare scores between genres, eg I unhesitatingly gave Tolkien 5 and Rowling 1 (and that was generous). I’d have to give it 4.8/4.9. It was just such a great read, I’ve already read it another couple of times before I take it back to the library. And look for more of his books, do hope there are some. I’ve just looked him up, and apparently he has written quite a few. Gets around four stars awards on book sites, but I think Black Out is well worth more than four, it also won a book award.
Highly recommended in case you haven’t worked that out.
Two Faces of Nemesis by Antony Melville-Ross
MI6. Need I say more? M-Ross writes a good tale. Fast-paced, and moving from London to New York to the Columbian jungle as the story unfolds.
As with all spy stories there is some deceit in there somewhere, and like the Lawton book, I was trying to guess just who was the spy on the inside, but was taken totally by surprise with this one. M-Ross doesn’t pull any punches and things don’t always end happily ever after. The good people get killed too.
Well-written, plausible characters, and a good easy read. Marks 3.8 to 4. It’s the second M-Ross book I’ve read (with the same main characters), and I’ll be hunting down the rest in our library.
And now for something completely different.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
This is a very good fantasy novel, allegedly aimed at young people I suppose, but is perfectly good for adults. It’s 400 pages of mystery, imagination, twists and surprises. Our heroine Lyra lives in Oxford with her demon. Everyone has their own personal demon. Brilliant. I want one. Almost as much as I want a Gollum (Tolkien). Your demon is basically your soul – impossible to live without it. And in a more physical sense, your demon is your companion.
There are witches, iron bears, wolf-demons and all sorts of exciting warring factions. There are gyptions who are barge people (without demons). From the genteel cloisters of Oxford, Lyra travels to the frozen North in search of her missing friend Roger, a kitchen boy from the college, and commits, unwittingly, the ultimate betrayal. Poignant and powerful.
This one won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian award and justifiably so. First published in 1995.
It easily merits 4 out of five, and I’d push it up to 4.3. It’s the first part of a trilogy, so I’ll be looking out for the other two.
Once in a full moon by Ellen Schreiber
This one was, well, nothing. Schreiber has written a series of books called Vampire Kisses. This book is actually about a werewolf. And obviously the nice girl (with botox lips by the look of the cover) who falls in love with him.
He comes from the wrong side of town so her mates are all very snotty with him, although he actually does come from money.
The plot is thin, the characters and conversation banal and the designer who thought having a black page for every new chapter with a full moon at the top needs to stop watching so many films. What works on films doesn’t work in print. I did not like having to read white print on black at the start of every chapter. The cover is vile too. As you can see.
Marks? One out of five on the grounds that if you have nothing else around it is readable but has no literary merit. It is nothing like as good as Meyer, but I suppose I should read one of Schreiber’s vampire novels to see if I just read a poor example of her work. Although based on that one, Enid Blyton is a more interesting read.
The book day was interesting. It was meant to be book crossing, but in fact, the sign just said, help yourself, all books free. So I did. I only took four. No Tolkien, no Lawton, M-Ross or Pullman, needless to state.
There were dated chick lit books including Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. The success of a mediocre book, leading to a hollywood film leaves me cold. Especially as we went to school together (year above me) so naturally I am insanely jealous of her success. There is a bit of a difference between someone who lives in Los Angeles and London and someone who lives in Spain and Gib. OK, so I would prefer the latter even had I the choice, but still, the choice would be nice.
But it made me muse how fickle fiction tastes are. Back in the 90s when Helen’s book was first published, there was a waiting list in my office for people to read someone’s version for free. And there it was, unloved and unwanted on a book giveaway. Instant success isn’t lasting. Read once, throw away later. Apparently her new book received poor reviews, but isn’t selling badly. What do you want, sales or critical acclaim? I’m no longer sure which I would prefer.
If I find my school photo with us both on I’ll scan it in. I’m sure I was more blonde than she was back then, and she is far blonder than me now. How can that be, I ask myself?
I also visited the local authors’ stalls. I had no idea Gib had so many local writers. There was a very nice-looking self-published children’s book about a bird story (see postcard in pic above), yet more indeterminate fantasy/love stories, and some good factual publications by Richard Garcia, one of which was a compilation of his own historical postcard collection. Very coffee table.
And, from one day to another.
International Women’s Day
Two days later, March 8 was International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was Inspiring Change. Suitably bland I must say. Apparently we can all be advocates for inspiring change. Really?
There were two events in Spain listed on the official international website. One was a yoga class and the other was to get on your motorbike and travel abroad. I really don’t think lack of yoga or imagination to travel abroad on your motorbike are the biggest problems facing women in Spain or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the UK was listed at the top of the events schedule and won gold with a whopping 420 events, USA had a mere 263 to fall in for silver, and Aus caught bronze with 158, only just pipping Canada however, who had 154. The next country on the list after these glorious white patriarchal powers was India with 91 events.
For those of you who are relatively new to my blog/s, here are my previous women’s day posts, which summarise my views about this token gesture of one day a year towards women, while ignoring their serious plight for the other 364/5.
Health warning for sensitive souls on this one – some swearing:
And if you don’t believe me, read this:
See, nothing ever changes.
But in the spirit of doing my part to inspire change, I shall continue to point out these uninteresting facts, and try and persuade you all to be at least a little less sexist in your choice of language. (Clouds readers will know exactly what I mean.) Similarly behaviour.
Many years ago, before automatic locking was invented for ordinary cars, I used to go out with three friends from work, and we would take it in turns to drive. Two of us would always unlock the passenger side first so that the other person could get in before we got in the driver’s side, rather than leaning across and unlocking it. We were both perfectly capable of opening the passenger door, so there was no need to do that, but the passenger wasn’t standing around like an idiot waiting for the driver to get in and reach across. My friends were all women. The other two didn’t do the unlock gesture. I found it really courteous when the one friend did.
The message there is, do something to help someone or be polite and respectful regardless of gender. Not because of.
Another two days later, we have Commonwealth Day. Never let it be said I am not patriotic. I like Commonwealth Day. Here in Gibraltar we get a bank holiday so it means a long weekend and we all promptly hot-footed it back to Spain. Where it is not a bank holiday, obviously.
The Spaniards on the firm where Partner works feel most discriminated against. While they are happy to take Gib bank hols, they want the Spanish ones too. I just love that. It says it all. I don’t just want to come and get my cake in your country, I want to eat it in mine too. Can you imagine Gibraltarians working in Spain (some do) asking for Commonwealth Day, Queen’s Birthday and National Day as holidays for them?
Every time a bank hol comes around they moan about it. The firm closes down for holidays. All firms do. So no, they can’t work triple time and get a whacking wedge for being in on a bank hol and take the Spanish ones of their choice as a quid pro quo. What they simply want is their bank hols as well as ours. And they want to run Gib?
The theme for Commonwealth Day this year is TeamCommonwealth, as Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games in summer. I do hate these ghastly phrases like TeamThis, TeamThat, and TeamTheOther.
It’s another bland theme about we all need to work together and co-operate. Yeah.
TeamRoughseas worked to put up a boat cover as a sunshade over my garden on Commonwealth Day. TeamNextdoorSpanishNeighbours promptly pointed out the rain wouldn’t get through which was a bit of a cheek as he has dirty great corrugated steel roofing over his terrace so no rain gets through there, it just bounces off it like a dustbin lid.
The commander of TeamRoughseas (me) decided we weren’t likely to get much rain in the near future, so we left it up.
TeamRoughseas (him) also repaired the bedouin’s tent above our terrace (lets the rain through :D), and changed the cockerel’s water, as well as generally messing around in the garden, weeding the path, mopping out the house, and going into town (him) for cable ties and dog biscuits. Great teamwork.
Today is World Day of Muslim Culture, Peace, Dialogue and Film.
Then we have two days off before a heady March 14 when it is International Day of Action for Rivers, and Pi Day. Pi Day?? The following day is World Consumer Rights Day. Having a laugh. What rights? World Consumer Service Day would be a good start, let alone world consumer service year.
But the one I’m looking forward to is the third Friday in March (21st this year). World Sleep Day. zzzzzzzzzzz
Here one world day, gone tomorrow.