Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Salon: Being European.

It's five years since I last posted to Sunday Salon.  Somehow, the habit faded away - but having been directed to its Facebook page by its founder, Debra Hamel, I've decided it was high time I renewed my acquaintance.

As usual, I have several books on the go.  An audiobook - Pat Bakers's Life Class,

a Kindle book - Craig Taylor's Londoners

and then Matthew Zajac's The Tailor of Inverness - one of those quaint old-fashioned mixtures of paper, glue and a little glazed card.  The book.   In its original form - and my favoured alternative.

Life Class is the first of a trilogy, and it slightly annoys me that I read the last of the three, Toby's Room, first.  Although I'm sure it doesn't matter very much, I do like to do these things in order.

Pat Barker is an old favourite.  I must have read her Regeneration trilogy twenty years ago - and this Life Class trilogy returns to a similar era: the First World War.  The story follows some young artists as they skirt around the trenches - not actually combatants, in as part of the Red Cross and therefore just as involved in the terror of it all.  I'm looking forward to doing some ironing later today so I can hear some more.  There's a huge pile so I should be happily 'reading' in this way for some time.

The Londoners is a compilation of interviews on the theme of living in the capital.  It makes a good Kindle book - a section just enough to read on my phone in idle moments .

I know London a little.  I lived and studied there in the nineteen eighties.  I loved it then, but that place I knew is different from the place it is now, and it is becoming ever more different from the rest of the country.  This is something that becomes apparent as I read through this book and its excellent choice of interviewees.  The interview I read last night, for instance,  was by a city planning officer.  London will never be finished, he says, because it was never planned.  It grows chaotically like something living, and all a planning officer can hope to do is manage its growth - picking out weeds like a conscientious gardener.  A planned city is a dead city, he says.  I think that's true.

Planning is a form of  bureaucracy.  And bureaucracy tends to create more bureaucracy -  bureaucrats creating more bureaucrats, thereby creating layers within layers.   It is a form of growth, but  unproductive growth - rather like a canker.  A good gardener might snip it out.

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Tailor of Inverness

The Tailor of Inverness was just as good as I thought it would be.  So good, in fact, I'm very glad I bought  the book on sale in the foyer outside before we went in.

I like the intensity of a one person play.  There is little let up for either actor or audience.  In the The Tailor of Inverness there was occasional music, the odd poem, and sometimes a bit of well-chosen video, but mainly it was the talented Matthew Zajac on stage with a violinist.  Sometimes he jumped on a chair, once he twirled a large clothes rail around and around, and once he did around twenty press ups while shouting out his lines - really incredibly energetic.

The set was minimal - the sort I like best because it allows the imagination to work.   There was the tailor's bench, his chair, the clothes rack - and a wall that became something else with clever lighting.  

The play itself was about memory, the tales we choose to tell about ourselves, and the effect of war. There was one point when I realised it felt like the entire audience was holding its breath.  No sweet unwrapping, no fidgeting, no removal of velcro fastenings on boots (as happened immediately behind me the last time I visited the theatre) making it altogether a great theatre experience.  I'm really pleased we took the chance on Hodmandod Senior's cough not interrupting things (it didn't).

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Happy St David's Day!

A perfect day.

Maybe not quite the first day of spring, but it's getting warmer..

After killing myself in Ali's spinnin' class, I indulged myself with a bunch of Tesco's daffodils

then returned home to find my friend Debra's book, 'Killing Eratosthenes'  behind the door.

I had the pleasure of reading this in its pre-published state.  It takes what remains of a murder trial recorded in Ancient Greece and converts it into a fascinating narrative.  As usual with Debra's books I learnt a lot about life in fifth century BC Athens, but the book comes with a decidedly twenty-first century innovation: via a link to Debra's Killing Eratosthenes website, it is possible to cast your vote and take a look at the virtual outcome.

To finish my perfect St David's day, I am returning to Wales to see the Tailor of Inverness in Theatr Clwyd.   Looking forward to this.  It's had great reviews and the last time monologue I saw in Thatr Clwyd, Grounded,  it turned out to be one of my all-time favourites.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy 2016

To celebrate the new year, I have decided to start a new blog, Real Chester.

Meanwhile, in this place, business will continue much as usual.

Lives for Sale: Biographers' Tales by…

In 2015 I got though 90 books.  The last was 'Lives For Sale' by Mark Bostridge, which was a compilation of essays celebrating and justifying the biographers' art.  A very interesting read for me since I am about to embark on more biographical fiction.  

Friday, September 04, 2015


...the inner walls ...slithered along every alleyway, every street, every nook I could find...

until I'd reached its heart.

It's taken a couple of years (so far) but I'm beginning to feel I know my city.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Walls!

Today, I finished my exploration of the walls (and a large section of the the inside).  
And now onwards into the heart of the city...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Castle

Earthquakes, hurricanes, witches...

...torturing and traces of the Medieval.  No wonder it took over a month.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Finished Handbridge!  
(took some doing...)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lache, Lache Lane and Westminster Park

What there once was  - and is now.  Courage and inspiration.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Hough Green, Curzon Park

Slitheringly upmarket...