World Book Day and resolutions

Happy World Book Day!

It’s always lovely to be reminded of the joy of books and I’ll take any excuse to celebrate them so days like this are perfect.

This World Book Day also heralds the beginning of a bookish resolution in that I intend to start a blog project to keep me on the straight and narrow. As I mentioned in my shame filled post about blog neglect, it seems to me that the key to a decent blog is to have a project, one which you sustain with regular, structured updates over a specified period of time. So my response to this is to use World Book Day to start a food in literature project. I know I am not the first to explore this but I needed something to be passionate about so combining two of my favourite occupations seems to be a sensible starting point. And then my plan over the course of a year is to experiment in the kitchen with foods which appear in a wide range of narratives. This enables some rummaging through novels, picking through poetry and soaking up some recipe books followed by throwing food around which ultimately ends up an edible, literary pleasure.

I fully intend to enjoy some clichés (Proust’s madeleines are bound to appear); I anticipate some culinary disasters; but I hope to simply enjoy myself.

Dickens will be first up during the next week so I shall take myself home from Yo! Sushi (where this post was written on my iPhone whilst lazily awaiting an obscenely large take-away) to decide which extract to use from so many Dickensian ones available in the next couple of days.

Happy World Book Day!

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The Sun on Sunday

A posting I could not resist which expresses what I imagine many have already noted about the new Sun on Sunday…

I stayed up far too late last night and, as a result, this morning has not been characterised by any effervescence or sharp intuition. Therefore, on hearing the BBC Radio 2 news when my partner’s alarm clock went off unexpectedly, I did not engage in my usual energetic, one way conversation/rant with the headlines but barely identified the boundaries between any of the stories. However, I did glean that the new Sun on Sunday has been published and is aimed at families and women.

As I concentrated on the important task of preparing caffeine for consumption, my barely sentient brain began to ponder what, as a woman and a member of a family, the Sun on Sunday could offer me. I was striving (albeit futilely) for an optimistic hope that they had perhaps offered a radical new media approach and that my bubbling feminist rant could stay unused. I searched for the online edition with the sole intention to judge a publication by its cover.

I was not disappointed with the potential for harsh judgements. It seems that this national newspaper has deemed the childbirth experiences of Amanda Holden to be the most significant and pressing news for the front page of its launch edition. It is difficult to know where to begin to try to convey my response. However, noting the subject’s national importance seems a fair place: Holden is a reality show judge and celebrity which does not even place her at the top of the entertainment industry for talent or influence, let alone enable us to attribute her with any individual cultural significance. Therefore, her place on the front page of any newspaper is at best surprising. Then there is the issue of the definition of news itself, as the front page is headed with “Amanda Holden exclusive” followed by “My heart stopped for 40 seconds”. This is not even a new story as the difficult birth of her child and a previous miscarriage have been reported in many areas of the press in recent weeks and months along with specific details and photos of her now healthy with her child in public; so the front page story does not even possess the quality of newness. I do not deny that she must have had a terrible time and that some will be comforted to read her story or that she is probably a pleasant woman; however, in the context of national childbirth issues in Britain (let alone internationally), her experience is as minor as her cultural status. And it is probably too obvious to state that there are far more significant news items proliferating in the rest of the media, as well as those not receiving enough coverage because of the dominance of the horribly extreme situations in places like Syria or deaths of genuinely remarkable stars.

But to my final point about it being aimed for women and its supposed “soft” (BBC Radio 2 news quotation again, I’m afraid) approach. Here I have to utterly disagree with Roy Greenslade in The Guardian who asserts that “There are no surprises, no controversies and no investigations”.

( )

I think it is immensely controversial for Murdoch’s organisation to suggest that this kind of banality is appropriate for a female focused news publication or that it represents what women want in the news. As Greenslade notes, it is more like certain magazine publications which I think suggests an even more controversial idea which is to reinforce the notion that women should not and do not want traditional news because we desire celebrity based, apolitical personal gossip. It implies our stupidity, an inability to deal with the public domain and that our priorities are both different from men and less serious thus presenting both men and women as homogenous groups. Whilst some will find it amusing that as it is “Supposedly billed as a female-friendly paper, it carries a page 3 topless picture with the woman folding her arms across her breasts” (Greenslade), I see that as an attempt to assert a pseudo-morality; it is still a topless, page 3 model and I do not imagine I would be entirely wrong to assume that she is probably young, white, slim and clear-skinned and thus not at all subversive of the page 3 tradition (please do correct me if I a wrong). The Sun on Sunday is not going to be bastion of noble ideals, forging a pathway through the dark and seedy world of some journalism making it easier for the press to follow in it lily white wake and I certainly do not think it epitomises the decency it claims to uphold.

With all that said, I suspect it will be very popular as The Sun brand is unequivocally successful. Furthermore, the enormous traffic statistics for The Daily Mail‘s online edition exhibit the draw of celebrity gossip. In the meantime, enjoy if you are female or in a family:

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Shamed into writing…

It seems I have been shamed into public postings again. I may have started blogging/posting/cyber self indulgence last year but I did not sustain a regular habit and quickly lapsed into privacy again. But now my partner has started the admirable whiskey tasting blog, having been previously known for his photography, his efforts have highlighted my lack of stamina and the ease with which I have slipped back into hiding my writing.

The key to regular posting seems to be to have a coherent project. Something which you have to do daily, weekly or monthly with a specific aim and which forces you to stick to a schedule. I have previously employed a wait-until-the-muse-strikes approach which makes it too easy to not publish anything (as you can see from the absences on my pages).

As a result, I do have an idea. It’s one which has been bubbling beneath the surface for a while. It shall simmer for a few more days as I shall start it on World Book Day, 1st. March, 2012. This seems to be a good day to start: at a number one; at the beginning of a spring month; on a celebratory day… Or perhaps those are all excuses not to post for the next few days…

Anyway, we shall see how I progress. In the meantime, luxuriate in and admire his greater discipline. Or his greater willingness to go public…

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I wrote but never published the piece below during the weekend of Amy Winehouse’s death. I cannot remember why I did not post it but re-reading it in the light of the responses to Whitney Houston’s death makes it seem relevant again.

All I seem to understand about figures like these women is that extreme talents in any area mark you out as different in a world where most seem to live unremarkable lives; quite how easy that is to deal with or what strategies you need to employ are beyond my ken. All I can do is marvel at both the talent and downfall.


It is easy to spout forth moral judgments about the internet and media interest in Amy Winehouse and to lament the focus on her death over the recent events in Norway. It is as easy to do this as it is for people to focus on Amy Winehouse at the expense of wider world issues. Yet it seems to me that neither response to what has been an unusually busy week in the news is particularly admirable.

The loss of (at writing) 92 people in Norway is incontrovertibly tragic and grieving those who had the terrible misfortune to be killed by what seems to be a Christian fundamentalist with maybe/maybe not an accomplice is a correct response. The random nature of the perpetrator’s selection of victims is truly awful as is the reportage which details teenagers playing dead amongst their murdered friends in a desperate act to avoid becoming victims. For once, the media’s usage of the term “tragedy” is appropriate as these horrific events justify this categorisation.

Conversely, the death of Amy Winehouse, whilst shocking is not tragic. However, it is undeniably terrible that a sassy, witty, astoundingly talented, young woman has died, presumably because her body has been battered by drug and alcohol abuse. It is awful that her genial, devoted father and her less well known mother have to grieve for a child who should have outlived them and indeed outshone their achievements with her phenomenal talents. And it is sad for fans who will be left wondering what she could have achieved if she had lived.

Continue reading

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The Royal Wedding

Regent Street ©Ben Matthews

Finally, the media chaos is calming. The headlines have returned to Libya and Syria; Facebook is moving on from inane, sexist comments about Pippa Middleton’s derrière and Twitter has slowed its circulation of the photo which looks like William got more than a kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony. I am now wondering how I should have responded to The Royal Wedding but I am left with an array of conflicting thoughts, none of which rest easily with each other.

It seems honest to begin by stating that I had a genuine sense of excitement last week as the population was hyped up by an unusually effusive British press. I was adamant that I would watch the whole spectacle, which indeed I did whilst clutching a William and Kate mug from which I drank copious amounts of tea rather less ironically than I had intended to. I cannot deny my enjoyment of the footage; I was, after all, an overexcited child in 1981 and this weekend felt like a beautiful reminder of an ’80s summer when life was simpler. I therefore set aside the welcome day off to comment on clothes and hats; to try to lip read the protagonists; laugh at the crazies who camped out; feel a little sentimental for a couple who pledged their lives to each other; and to be amused by the ex-colonies who displayed unadulterated enthusiasm for the old mistress Britannia and her eccentric traditions. My eyes feasted on toffs and frocks and carriages aplenty and, overarching all of that, I could not help but be in love with Britain (London in particular) for putting on a show which was genuinely impressive. Beauty, pomp and ritual was held together by a militaristic precision and a phenomenal security operation. And, even better than 1981, I could amuse myself with the pseudo-connectedness that Twitter and Facebook can create at such moments.

Yet this enthusiasm is tempered by a more thoughtful response. Continue reading

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Happy birth/deathday, Mr. Shakespeare!

I suspect I should probably be more patriotic and prioritise St. George today rather than the bard. I do indeed send you all saintly greetings and wish you no harm from dragons in England’s green and pleasant lands but Shakespeare’s genius seems a little more tangible and personally significant.

I apologise for not writing this in iambic pentameter but I shall be wielding quotations throughout my travels today and will possibly be seen clutching a tome of complete works on this glorious Easter weekend. So whether you doff a celebratory ruff or you pause to be thankful for his celebration of romantic love or take heed from the tragic ends of the mighty, happy Shakespeare Day!


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Bookshelf porn

This is arguably the best website for bibliophiles if they’re feeling a little glum or are thinking about interior decoration or, tbh,if you simply want a little literary stimulation:

It’s a moment of joy in your day to browse through this site and to let the images pleasure you.



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