Sorry I have not been in touch much. I haven't been following many blogs - including my own. And, my Blogger site's been buggy lately, taking up to half a minute to post a comment.
Talking of buggy, the bug I've had makes its victims feel tired for weeks after the symptoms have disappeared, or so the doctor says. Am I sitting around because of that, I wonder, or because inactivity has fed on itself and turned me lazy? T.'s been more energetic than me, so that's encouraged me to go out, visit a few people, and take a few photos, including these art deco style tree-trunk shadows.
Sending so much time indoors means I've been too much on Twitter, and I hate it because everyone's become so political - including me. Every day some new mad and disturbing thing seems to happen and I can't help wondering where it will all end.
I'm glad to say, though that we've begun doing a little Tai Chi. One of our daughters is an expert and just made us a little video of 8 minutes-worth to practice each day. It doesn't sound much but feels surprisingly good, with the graceful, purposeful movements helping one's focus on the here and now. Burning incense has been a pleasant discovery, too - the smoke makes endlessly fascinating shapes.
Oh, and I've finished Helen Dunmore's "Birdcage Walk" which I mentioned last post. Great characters, story and plot - but what I liked best of all was the vivid picture it gave of 18th century life in Bristol. I've been trying to write some historical fiction myself so I know how hard it can be to include period detail without seeming to give a history lesson. Life over 100 years ago was so comprehensively different from now that unless you explain the background, you risk giving quite the wrong impression.
For instance, lets say your plot needs your 3 year old son to drink a large glass of beer. In a modern novel, this might seem like a problem for your little lad, and probably a problem for you, too. But in the late 18th century, right into the 19th, it was common for children to drink alcoholic drinks. They often drank large quantities a weak type of beer known as "small-beer" which was more wholesome than the fresh water then available. Not only is beer more nourishing than water (for as we know, alcohol contains a lot of calories) but the alcohol content made the beer healthier than water from a sewage-laced stream or rubbish filled well.
But ... would you really want to explain all that background just to move your plot on? The temptation is to change the storyline so that you're the one drinking the beer - or cut beer out of the plot altogether! So, if you read Dunmore's novel, notice how cleverly she's worked in the period detail.
My current reading is quite different. It's Mohsin Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." The text consists of a conversation the Arab narrator has with an unknown Westerner in an Arab town. In fact, it's one half of a conversation, because the only person we hear is the narrator himself, talking about his life, what has happened in his past and what is going on around him now.
As he speaks, pleasantly, politely and gently, we start to see how a bright, thoughtful and successful young man might give up everything to be a fundamentalist. We can't hate him, and everything that happens during the conversation seems quite innocuous, easily understandable, easily explained.... And yet.... and yet....
Well, let me just say that I ended up thinking pretty hard about the book after I had finished it. I'd better not say more, in case you decide to read it.
We had tickets booked for a concert at London's Roundhouse, and of course we went along to that. This well known venue was a steam locomotive turntable shed in ye olden days before first falling derelict and then being restored. We saw a somewhat peculiar performance of Monteverdi's "The Return of Ulysses." It was interesting, though, and the Roundhouse is a fabulous venue. Here is a picture of its interior in railway days, complete with tracks and engines.
This is how the ceiling looks now, complete with theatre fittings and lights. Can you see that the wrought iron pillars dividing the tracks in the old picture, are still visible in the modern picture?
This is a view from the bar showing some of the exterior with a view down the road - lots of atmosphere. I wonder what those engine drivers would think to see it now.
I hope I've saved up enough energy for a house guest arriving tomorrow, and Middle A coming to stay overnight for a birthday outing at the weekend, plus another house guest next week. I think it'll be fine. And I am gradually making my way around blogs, and I'll try to reach yours soon. Have a good weekend!