(I did not make it to the Brattle's screening of A Matter of Life and Death (1946), so the question of whether I find David Niven as beautiful in that movie as Andrew Moor does will have to wait for another time.)
(I did not make it to the Brattle's screening of A Matter of Life and Death (1946), so the question of whether I find David Niven as beautiful in that movie as Andrew Moor does will have to wait for another time.)
(I've stitched a simple pamphlet-style binding with linen twine in place of one book's pair of staples, then put a layer of book-tape over it because first-graders aren't much better than preschoolers about picking at bits that stick out. Twine is fiber!)
* I've skated into that ridiculous chunk of pi shawls wherein every round is nearly 600 stitches and the chart segment accounts for half the stitch count of the whole damned shawl. At least I'm past several individually unpleasant rounds; the current patch has an easy-to-follow repeat. Though that makes it boring (a simple 26-st repeat completed 20 times per round, in a set of four rounds, itself repeated six times), at least I'm unlikely to mess it up. It'll change again.
* My mother's cardigan won't be finished by my target date, largely because it has so much k,p,k,p as to create a field of somnolence around its making. I've informed Reason that I will show it to my mother unfinished on the target date, then complete it by winter solstice. Reason remains concerned that my mother won't want it and I'll undo it, but I'd just lengthen the sleeves and keep it in that case....
Well, to paraphrase the old saying – we hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet. Since those days, just about all the library managers we went to talk to have been made redundant or retired. There have been numerous reviews, all undertaken with a view to cutting costs. I remember a meeting very early on, where the idea of different services sharing premises with libraries was put forward. I was truly shocked when a fireman, a parent of young children, said that he couldn’t see the point of libraries – that he never read to his child because there were so many other things to do.
I don’t think he was typical. And most – though not all – of Somerset’s libraries are still here. But they’ve been pruned and pruned and pruned again, to the stage where everyone agrees that staffing levels can’t be reduced any further. In my own local library in Cheddar, the last round of cuts resulted in single working for part of the week - that is, one member of staff being on duty at a time. This is in a two storey building where the office and toilets and spaces for local groups to meet are upstairs, and the library is downstairs. The children’s library is at the back of the ground floor – it’s a lovely space, and like the rest of the library, it’s well-used. But it’s out of sight of the front desk, where that single member of staff may be taking in and stamping out books, explaining to a child and grandparent who have just joined up how to make best use of the library, signing another child up for the Summer Reading Challenge, helping an older person who wants to know how to get in touch with the Patient Group – and so on. I’m not exaggerating: this is how it is, I’ve seen it. And the staff members do all this with grace and patience. They do lots more too – the library hosts a number of local groups, and it has events, talks, and open days.
|Here we all were, back in 2011, with Tessa Munt, our then MP, in the foreground.|
But why does this have to keep happening?
I could go on about the ancient library of Alexandria; about all the towns, like the one I come from in the industrial midlands, that benefitted from Andrew Carnegie’s generosity over a hundred years ago and were provided with libraries; about the thousands of children who benefit each year from the Summer Reading Challenge; about the elderly who go into libraries for a chat, to get help with new technology – and of course to take out the books which will take them into other lives, other worlds, which will make them think, keep their brains firing off sparks and making connections. But you know all this. The very fact that you’re here, reading a blog about books, means that you know how important books, and by extension libraries, are. (You know too, that in Hitler's Fascist state, he ordered books to be burnt - great piles of them; because he knew books were important - he knew they were dangerous.)
And it shouldn’t keep happening. The proportion of a council’s budget that goes on libraries is tiny. And anyway, for heaven’s sake, it’s a legal obligation that libraries must be provided: under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, local authorities have a statutory duty to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services.
It seems absurd to me that one of the wealthiest countries in the world says it can’t afford to provide a properly funded library service – in the grand scheme of things, it would cost peanuts. But then again, I was in a prosperous area of Bristol yesterday and saw people sleeping on the streets, and that seems even more absurd.
Still, it as it is. So here in Cheddar, as in so many other places where the library service faces ever-increasing cuts, we’ll continue to fight the good fight. Wish us luck!
It is so rare that I like a sitcom, but this one is smart and funny, and the actors terrific.
1. Thank you, question mark, Facebook, for pointing me toward this teeth-grinding article: Zoe Willams, "Yes, yes, yes! Welcome to the golden age of slutty cinema." I was a little wary of the opening, but then we reached the following claim—
"On the big screen, we look to the 1930s and 40s – rightly – for an object lesson in how to make a female character with depth, verve, wit and intelligence, but to expect those women to shag around would be unreasonable, anachronistic."
—and I blew a fuse. Can I chase after the author screaming with a copy of Baby Face (1933)? Or the bookstore clerk from The Big Sleep (1946)? Pre-Code cinema in general? A stubborn and sneaky percentage of Hollywood even after the ascendance of the Production Code? "It is a radical act," William writes, "which every film generation thinks they are the first to discover: to create characters who are not good people"—well, apparently every generation of film critics thinks they discovered it, too. I wrote on Facebook that I was reminded of the conversation between an ATS driver and her prospective mother-in-law in Leslie Howard's The Gentle Sex (1943), where the younger woman declares proudly that "for the first time in English history, women are fighting side by side with the men" and the older woman quietly lets fall the fact that she served as an ambulance driver on the front lines of the last war. Just because the young women of the rising generation don't know about the social advances of their mothers doesn't mean they didn't happen. Just because the author of this article lives in a retrograde era doesn't mean the onscreen representation of morally ambiguous women is some kind of millenial invention. It's so easy to think that the past was always more conservative, more blinkered, more backwards than the present. It's comforting. It's dangerous. It permits the belief that things just get better, magically, automatically, without anyone having to fight to move forward or hold ground already won. Once you recognize that the past, even briefly, got here first, it's a lot harder to feel superior for just being alive now. We can't afford it and anyway it isn't true.
2. Apropos of nothing except that I was listening to Flanders and Swann, I am very glad that I discovered them before reading Margery Allingham, otherwise I might have thought she invented "The Youth of the Heart." It's quoted in a scene in The Beckoning Lady (1955)—correctly attributed, but her books are so full of fictional artists and musicians that when I read of "Lili Ricki, the new Swedish Nightingale, singing Sydney Carter's lovely song against a lightening sky," I might have easily had the Avocado of Death problem and assumed she made them all up. As it is, I know the song from a recording of Swann performing it solo as part of At the Drop of a Hat in 1957, since he wrote the music. And I was reminded of Allingham because there's a copy of Traitor's Purse (1941) on Howard's bookshelves in Howard the Duck (1986). I assume someone in the props department was a fan.
3. The Somerville Theatre has announced its repertory schedule for October. I am sad that the double feature of James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is the same night that rushthatspeaks and I already have plans to see William Wellman's Beggars of Life (1928) at the HFA, but I am looking forward mightily to the triple feature of Psycho (1960), Psycho II (1983), and Psycho III (1986), because it is the Sunday before my birthday and five and a half hours of Anthony Perkins seems like a good preemptive birthday present to me. I have never seen Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963), either, or Anna Biller's The Love Witch (2016), and I always like Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead (2004). I know Brad Anderson's Session 9 (2001) was shot at the derelict Danvers State Hospital before it was demolished for condos, a decision which I hope is literally haunting the developers to this day. Anyone with opinions about the rest of this lineup?
I am off to write letters to politicians.
( Cover )
( Title Page (bit blurry, sorry, it tried to escape) )
It appears to be a teleplay by novelist Elizabeth Bowen about Anthony Trollope: Anthony Trollope: A New Judgement (OUP, 1946). As you can see, it's a beautiful little booklet, maybe A6 size, with a marbled cover, presented more like a monograph than a script.
AbeBooks adds this: "A play broadcast by the BBC in 1945." Hmm, BBC.
Adding "BBC" to the search produces The Wireless Past: Anglo-Irish Writers and the BBC, 1931-1968 via Google Books:
This warning against nostalgia and advocacy of the 'now' appears most clearly in Bowen’s final radio feature, "Anthony Trollope: A New Judgement", which was broadcast two days before VE day in May 1945. In this broadcast, Bowen continues the ghost-novelist conceit of her other radio features while also communicating more explicit messages about the relationship between print culture and nostalgia. The later broadcast was evidently popular—Oxford University Press published the script as a pamphlet in 1946. (100)
It strikes me that while this book may have been of the "now" in 1946, it has become an object of almost irresistible print culture nostalgia. Someone surely was thinking of that, even at the time. The deckle edge. The marbling. And printed right after the war, too, when paper might still have been scarce.
...actually, Wireless goes on to discuss the shortage -- apparently these broadcasts were "oriented towards publics that could not access books" (103). I'm not, via skimming, entirely clear why Bowen is anti-nostalgia, but then, she seems like someone who would be.
Any readers of Bowen? I've only read The Death of the Heart for a graduate course on the modernist novel.
There's no indication on the pamphlet itself that it is a screenplay or was ever broadcast or has anything to do with the BBC -- at first thumb-through, I thought it was a monograph in avant-garde format. Which I guess it is, or rather the record thereof.
The weather was glorious this morning - sun and mist before we got up and just sunshine after we arose. We went for an early(ish) walk and spent the whole time exclaiming over how beautiful everything is. I was on a high anyway, because the transformation from exhausted to being normal - again - feels miraculous. At least it was only months this time, not years, but I'm still surprised how bad it was in retrospect compared with how bad I recognised it as being at the time. Anyway, it had to be the old medication, because I'm bouncing around now and stayed awake until almost 10pm last night, OMG.
Today I painted my golden rod-dyed silk with a solution of iron sulphate and got green stripes. I am very happy about this. Photos to follow.
And then my actual plans got put aside for a sudden burst of book-weeding. We've been meaning to sort the general fiction paperbacks for an age, and today we made a start. We began with the unsorted ones, squeezed onto two shelves and stacked on the floor in two teetering piles. We wiped off the massive quantities of dust and divided them into keepers and discards. By shelf-space, we discarded about 50%, and sorted a total of 5m of books. My estimate for the remaining task is another 23m. The proportion achieved surprises me, and I'm optimistic about completing the task and improving the room by the end of this year.
I was pleased to find my copy of 1066 And All That in the sorting process. So I reread it for the umpteenth time. Bad news: someone removed all the funny. Perhaps it isn't the real book, and I'll find the funny version later, or perhaps a sense-of-humour bypass is a side-effect of the new drug.
Tendons are healing again, and reasonably quickly.
A fair but not overwhelming crowd appeared, of SF fans, filkers, and scientist-engineers, all of which Jordin was. Many were people B. and I knew, though some I had not seen for many years.
Like other such gatherings I've attended, it featured people taking turns to offer reminiscences and tributes, but unlike some it did not last interminably. The tributes lasted no more than an hour and a half, after which we milled and ate from the table spread. B. and I were able to make our rounds and then leave early enough to get home for dinner, which made things easier for us and also for the cats.
The first speaker was a scientific colleague who spoke of Jordin's energy and prolificity as marked by his hundreds of patents with hundreds more still pending (it's a slow process), by the end of which he will be one of the few, all very recent, who have surpassed Thomas Edison's record for greatest number.
When it was my turn, I spoke of much that I said in my memorial post, emphasizing how in organizing The Westerfilk Collection and encouraging his colleagues, including myself, to do our best and hardest work, he was displaying the same leadership skills he'd later apply to building rockets and designing laser propulsion.
Of course we also spoke of Jordin's quick wit. My favorite story of the day came from a SF con panel at which one had described his experiment in which rats were taught to run a maze; but by giving them an electric shock afterwards they forgot it all and had to re-learn from scratch the next day. Jordin immediately spoke up.
"So you pulled a habit out of a rat," he said.
Lizz Skelly, Bloomsbury’s lovely Children’s Publicity Manager, met me at our hotel on the Sunderland seafront, where we arrived in the midst of a howling gale. But it was bright and cloudless over the North Sea the next morning – I had exactly fifteen minutes on the beach before we headed to our first school! I need to share this picture of ACTUAL DOG FOOTPRINTS in the sand – dogs clearly have so much more fun than humans.
But humans know how to have fun, too. At St. Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy we met Mariana Mouzinho, a dynamo of a bookseller representing Blackwells and extremely knowledgeable about the area schools. (Our taxi driver told us that Sunderland is bigger than Newcastle, and Mariana is responsible for both in terms of school book sales, so that’s saying something.) At St. Anthony’s we were welcomed by the school librarian Marguerite Jackson – I do enjoy a chance to encourage a roomful of girls to write and fly!
Mariana’s amazing book set-up at St. Anthony’s, Sunderland
At Thorp Academy in Ryton, we had a school dinner (quite a good one!) with our host, the Learning Resource Centre Manager, Beth Khalil. Then I got to entertain and be entertained by a big group of very enthusiastic Year 7s and a few Year 8s. Here, one student asked me if I’d ever been pearl fishing myself. I haven’t, so I told Hilary McKay’s pearl fishing story instead:
When i was little, 5 or 6, my dad showed me a pearl in a mussel he fished out of the river. It was about __ that big and pink.— Hilary McKay (@hilary_mckay) March 10, 2017
NO WAY. SO COOL.— Elizabeth Wein (@EWein2412) March 10, 2017
I dropped it in the long grass of the river bank. And we didn't look for another ever because we both agreed it was too cruel.— Hilary McKay (@hilary_mckay) March 10, 2017
My poor dad, he used to get up very early to go fishing & I used to think 'how awful, so lonely & early' & insist on going too...— Hilary McKay (@hilary_mckay) March 10, 2017
Thank you, Hilary!
Thorp Academy Year 7s asking questions
Matthew, Year 8 at Thorp Academy, waited patiently for the queue to die down so he could get this picture with me. :D
Lizz and Mariana and I parted ways at the Newcastle rail station – Mariana on her way home, Lizz back to London and me on to Leeds. The taxi driver and I learned something from each other. I told him how I learned random facts from books, and used as an example the origin of the road name “Green Lane” – how it turned up in Dodie Smith’s The New Moon With the Old and turned out to be an old cross-country byway from village to village, now preserved only in the name – and the cabbie said that he thought it must be the origin of a sport he’d just found out about called “green-laning,” where you drive all-terrain vehicles off-road. (He was a great guy. He explained that he likes his reading short and sweet. No time for hooptedoodle.) (Actually, it was my use of the term “hooptedoodle” – which I believe was coined by John Steinbeck, for poetic filler in your text – that made the cabbie leap into the conversation.)
On Wednesday morning I was collected from my hotel by Debbie Moody, the Youth Librarian at the Leeds Central Library, who took me to the Roundhay School. There we were welcomed by Nazia Ansari and the librarian Emily Corley. They’d put together a fantastic display of my books and even presented me with a bunch of flowers for my efforts. The students I spoke to here were mostly Year 7s, a wonderfully attentive and lively group. Rory O’Connor of Orinoco Books gamely provided the book sales for the day’s visits.
If I remember one thing from this trip ten years from now, I hope it is the Roundhay student who was too shy to speak to me himself – I had to get him to whisper his comment to his friend who spoke aloud for him. I’d asked if the kids had any experience with Travellers or of living without a fixed home. This boy turned out to have travelled to the UK from Syria.
When I heard this, I said, “WHOA. So I guess you know something about difficulty and living on the road – you must be very – ”
I paused, struggling for an appropriate, inadequate word, and the kid from Syria supplied: “Unstoppable!”
And I said, “YEAH! UNSTOPPABLE! That is exactly the right word. Keep on going!”
What an amazing, wonderful thing it is that he is sitting in class, in school uniform, in Leeds. The absolute BEST of Britain. And I got to meet him.
Flowers from Roundhay
Debbie took me to lunch in a little café in Otley, West Yorkshire, before our next school, which was Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley. This was a group of Year 9 students. The school has the distinction of having the best A-Level results in the Leeds area. Smart kids!
Speaking to Year 9s at Prince Henry's Grammar School, Otley
Ruth Wyss, the librarian there, enjoyed the coincidence of spotting a Spitfire – the kind with four wheels, not two wings – after one of the students asked me what my favourite World War II aircraft was and I’d waxed lyrical about the iconic beauty of Spitfires.
The kind with four wheels - wouldn't mind flying one of these, either!
So then I caught the train to Birmingham, where I spent the night, and after fighting our way through the commuter traffic the next morning, met up with Phyllis Gaunt of the Solihull Group of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. Phyllis was my guide and bookseller for the day, which we started by meeting Eileen Clitherow of the Lode Heath School. There, I spoke to two groups of Year 9 students in a couple of all-too-brief presentations, since there were too many students to bring together in a single session. Lode Heath also kindly provided us with sandwiches before we moved on, in a downpour as ferociously torrential as the one I’d started the week with in Sunderland.
Our final school of the trip was in Chelmsley Wood. Vera Gardner, the incredibly vibrant Learning Resources Manager at John Henry Newman Catholic College, welcomed us to her fantastic library and then I spoke to a group of about 300 Year 7s – among whom, for the first time, were half a dozen or so students who actually identified as Travellers. I was really delighted to hear that none of them felt any kind of social pressure because of this.
I got to meet a specially selected group of Year 9s afterward, and drink many cups of tea, and John Henry Newman even blogged about the event themselves.
With Year 9s at John Henry Newman in Chelmsley Wood
And then Phyllis dropped me at Birmingham Airport, the only leg of the whole trip not made by public ground transport, which I think is kind of cool.
We flew along the west coast the whole way from Merseyside and Manchester to the Clyde before turning east to Edinburgh, through a clear sky and a glorious glowing sunset, and I knew where I was the whole time, which I also think is kind of cool.
“NOW THAT THINGS ARE BACK TO NORMAL, I CAN GET SOME REAL WORK DONE.”
- Harriet (Welsch, not Vane)
(Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy)
Holst really did visit Algiers; the Beni Mora Suite is his report on North African music, and my favorite of his out-of-the-regular-order music. An exotic and hypnotic piece, especially in its third and final movement, beginning at 10:24, which repeats a tuneless phrase that Holst heard a bamboo flute player perform nonstop for two hours. (Here it lasts less than 7 minutes.)
(Some critics have called this movement "proto-minimalism," proving only that they don't have the slightest idea what minimalism is.)
2. Cat report: Maia has a particular sound, a rising trilled purr, which means "Please resume scritching my head." Every time I took even the briefest pause from this arduous duty, she'd utter this. Petting sessions customarily last about ten minutes (until she jumps down from the bed), twice a day after meals. You can count on it. Pippin, meanwhile, is still thinking outside of the box, to the pleasure only of the accountants in the paper towel industry.
3. If Jimmy Kimmel knows more about health care than a passel of Republican Senators, which sadly he does, then it's no surprise that John Cleese knows more about political analysis than a passel of reporters. In this interview he points out something that's puzzled me. Every time I see an article purporting to explain why Trump won so many working-class votes, the article goes into great detail about economic suffering, particularly in rural areas, but never - not once - do they go on and address the question that this is the first time I've seen put in print. In Cleese's words, "why on Earth did the less successful people think Trump was going to do anything he said he was going to do to help them?"
4. I'm not happy with having a "president" implying threats of nuclear war against another country, are you? I suspect the rest of the world isn't thrilled either. And as long as it's still limited to trading verbal personal insults, I have to say that the other, non-English-speaking, party has a more virtuosic command of English-language insults than our English-speaking one has.
5. Anybody re-watched the video of "Despacito" since the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico? Wondering whether anything in the outdoor scenes is still standing? That'd make a great hook for a feature article, but I haven't seen anything of the sort.
6. I was not tremendously thrilled by my experience having an evening out at a comedy club in LA, but it wasn't a bad experience, and lordy lordy was it nowhere near as awful as this.
7. Another thing I did in LA was return to the Richard Nixon Presidential Museum. I'd been there once when it was a private entity, and I awed at its description of Watergate as a conspiracy organized by John Dean and Sam Ervin to overthrow Nixon. I wanted to see how it's changed now that the museum is federally-owned. The contents have been entirely revamped, and the Watergate display is a detailed timeline of impressive veracity, but other parts of the museum are more slanted (there's an implication that South Vietnam fell only because Congress failed to appropriate enough money to support it after the US pulled out), and the only books on Watergate in the gift shop are more conspiracy theory nut jobs.
8. Teenagers who don't drink, drive, or date. Note that this is only a trend. "The portion of high school students who’d had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015." Still a lot on both sides at both dates. Apparently the reason they haven't learned to drive is that the only reasons they see to drive are to get you to places where you can drink or date. Well, even back in my day I didn't drink nor date in high school, but I did drive, because it was the only way to get anywhere in the trackless suburbs, even to go shopping. And my parents were thrilled to have me available to drive my little brothers to their lessons et al so that they didn't have to do it; they encouraged me to get my license at the first available opportunity. The newer law prohibiting under-18s from driving other minors without an adult present would not have pleased my parents. And maybe that's a reason for the difference.
This morning we went into town to do errands, slowly because the tendons are still recovering from the new boots, but we walked over 2km. Our visit coincided with Daventry's very first Food Festival and, somewhat to our surprise, it wasn't a bad event. There were at least four stalls offering locally brewed craft beers and ciders, so we came home with half a dozen different ciders. We would have bought some samosas and onion bhajis, but we were a little too early. The leaflet we were given for the (relatively new) health food store, has convinced me I've been missing out on something good, so I shall visit that next week.
I deposited the majority of my collection of fabulous shoes at one of the charity shops. It was a sad moment, but I'm hoping I'll stop missing them now they are no longer sitting forlornly on a shelf being all unwearable at me. On the upside, I found that with a 3/4 orthotic, rather than a full length one, I can wear more of the old shoes than anticipated (though, inevitably, the more boring part of the collection).
Our lunch was all planned around the giant, homegrown potatoes J gave me on Thursday. They are big enough that we only needed one between two, and we decided that baking would be the best way to enjoy its unadulterated potatoey deliciousness. We had a couple of different salads too and, oh yes, we might have opened one of those ciders to go with it. Omnomnom.
This afternoon I made havregrynskugler as recommended on twitter by Sofie Hagen. The recipe is dead simple - essentially it's chocolate buttercream with oats. I'm not a fan of buttercream, but the oats (and the Amaretto di Saronno I added) make these satisfyingly chewy balls of chocolatey goodness.