Friday, 14 February 2014

Reading and looking

Bee Wilson's book Consider the Fork was a fascinating look at the history of cooking and eating through the techniques and equipment used to provide meals, not the food itself, although there are many books which cover that subject.With chapters on Pots and pans, Fire, Grind ( which  briefly tells the history of how humans have ground grain to make bread from earliest times). Although this book doesn't go into the minutest detail, it gives a through introduction of how our cooking and eating techniques have changed through the ages, with a brief mention of how some eating techniques have changed us as humans. There is also an excellent bibliography and list of further reading for those of us with a deeper interest in food history in all its ramifications.
 As my book club had booked to hear Alexander McCall Smith when he came to Winchester Guildhall last Thursday, I quickly re-read the title story in the Sunday Philosophy Club series to remind myself of his writing. He is as entertaining a speaker as he is a writer, and was well worth the short trip up to Winchester, and has encouraged me to read some of his other series set in Edinburgh, as well as trying to catch up with Mma Ramotswe and her detective agency.
 Another fairly quick read was Libby Purves Holy Smoke, a memoir of her education as a Catholic girl growing up in a variety of places , following her father in his career as a diplomat. I picked this up at my local library, out of interest, as I'm a fairly regular reader of her Times column, and have also read most of her other books, both fiction and non-fiction. I must say her education at Catholic convent schools, mostly, was completely different to mine., even though I also spent time abroad with my parents ( father a mining engineer) and went to boarding school in England while parents worked abroad, West Africa in their case.

 A friend reminded me the other day that there is an exhibition of the work of Eric Meadus, a local artist, in Southampton City Art gallery , until 22nd March. Many of he scenes he painted are only about a mile away from where I live, and it was interesting to see his vision of his home city. There is a good write-up of Eric Meadus' work here, and some biographical information here.I personally love the colours he uses , even some of the darker ones, and think his drawing is beautiful. I agree that not all his work is of the same standard, but it is all worth looking at and studying. I'll probably  try and visit this exhibition again, as I only concentrated on part of it at this visit.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Gillian Slovo's story of Gordon of Khartoum, An Honourable Man seemed a bit disappointing, in that I didn't actually care enough about the characters. The story of the relief of Khartoum, two days late, is fairly well-known, but the addition of the story of a doctor who joined the relief party, and his wife at home in London added a more human depth, and yet..I still couldn't feel quite sufficient sympathy for them.
The details of the siege of Khartoum are given somewhat sparingly, but with an ever-increasing sense of the impending doom. The more interesting action of the novel is the journey of John, the doctor, inspired by the journalist and editor W H Stead to join the army's expedition to relieve Gordon, and the journey and inner turmoil of John's wife Mary, left at home in London to cope with an increasing dependence on laudanum and the turns and twists she goes through to satisfy her addiction. Of all the characters, Mary's was in many ways the most sympathetic, in that I came to care what happened to her, as she made her choices.  This was a well-written story, with several beautiful descriptions of exciting events, but with characters that failed to evoke sufficient sympathy. This novel had some personal relevance, as the Gordon family had a home in Southampton, and there is a memorial to him in a small city park, Queens Park ( which caused much debate and argument between the family and the town council at the time of its proposed erection) There is a good description of the setting up of the monument here.

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