Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Katherine Whitehorn and more

Recent reading has included Katherine Whitehorn's autobiography Selective Memory, which I found to be a quick read, as it is fairly short. Her life seems to have been successful, although not without its problems. Although she might possibly be described as a feminist in the way she has conducted her life, in that she has always worked pretty much full-time, she doesn't describe herself as such, just a working journalist. What comes out of the book for me is her breadth of interests and her commitment to public good . I more-or-less taught myself to cook from her Cooking in a bedsitter, when I left home for college in Manchester and lived in bedsitters as a student. Somehow the Women's Own Cookbook given me by my mother didn't seem to cut it - too full of pictures of rather elaborate-looking food which was totally inappropriate in bedsitter with a one or two electric ring Baby Belling cooker. Her explanations were simple and right to the point and usually turned out tasty edible food, much better than that available at the student canteens which were the alternative. I've also enjoyed her Observer columns in the past.
Jane Gardam's Old Filth is another of those books which I've only just got round to reading despite wanting to since it was published a few years ago. The descriptions of Old Filth's separation from his father, left in Malaysia while he was sent to England at a very tender age brought back memories of my childhood separation from my parents, as they were in Ghana in West Africa while my sister and self were at boarding school in England. However my experiences were generally happier than Old Filth's, whose life seemed to have had a variety of very unhappy experiences, all born with grace and a stoicism that seems rarely to exist in present times.
Current read is Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, a biography of sorts of William Shakespeare. Based on what little documentary evidence is available a sort-of picture gradually emerges of the most famous playwright in the English language. But somehow he still seems only to speak through his plays; there is little else to go on, so do we really get to know Shakespeare the human being? To me he still seems to be a figure glimpsed through a mist, only partly visible. But still worth reading about in this book, as it sends me back to the plays to read the context of at least some of the chosen quotes.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Marmalade making

Yesterday was such a grey, dismal day that I was glad to spend the morning in the kitchen making marmalade with the Seville oranges I bought the previous day on a trip to my local shopping centre. One of the local greengrocer's had some boxes of Seville oranges on display so I bagged myself a couple of pounds, bought some sugar and was all set. The recipe I use is one from the handbook from my old and now retired Kenwood Chef, which tells you to chop the oranges using the liquidiser - much quicker than spending hours chopping by hand, and although the resulting marmalade wouldn't win any prizes for appearance, it tastes wonderful, sharp and citrussy. I have never found a shop-bought marmalade that comes antwhere near it for taste. The afternoon was spent catching up on figures for the parish council of which I'm treasurer, to ensure the evening meeting went well. This evening I'm out to see the film of the Kite Runner with members of the reading Group. We read the book last year, more -or-less at the time the film was beginning to be publicised, so are keen to see it and compare with the book, which we almost all found memorable and moving.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Catching up on reading

Although I didn't feel that I had read much over Christmas, I found that recently I have finished Alan Bennett's An Uncommon reader, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel, last week. This last read was quite intriguing; I thought on starting it that it would be a bit heavy going, but not a bit, I kept wanting to find out what happened to her next and how she achieved all that she has in a foreign country and strange language. What a woman she is and what a stoic. She doesn't believe in sitting down and moaning about her lot in life, but carries on and thinks out a way of working out her own way of getting to where she wants to be. Her revelations about Islam were eye-opening for me, ignoramous that I am about Islam in many ways.
Alan Bennett's book on the other hand has so much sense to say about reading and all told in the gentle yet sharply observed tone he uses. The story of the Queen visiting a mobile library outside Buckingham Palace and taking a book out to be polite amd reading it all the way through because she was brought up to finish what she had started, and then reading one book leading to another and another, is delightful, but there are serious messages about reading in it. As a lifetime reader and chartered librarian, I found the comments Alan Bennett makes, in the form of the Queen's thoughts about reading, spot on.

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