Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Time For Bed

Oh joy. Oh rapture. Oh heavenly delights.

VE is feeling giddy with excitement because... after months of promises and weeks of waiting, The New Bed has at last arrived.

Yes, as I came home this evening - all tired and drained from an hour of kick-boxing someone smaller than myself - I opened the front door and was greeted by the smell of fresh wood. I followed my nose into the bedroom and was confronted with The World's Biggest Bed. After nearly three years of pushing and shoving, we will finally have enough space to sleep in... and we shall be doing it on our Soil Association approved, organic mattress.

Frankly, dear reader, I'm surprised I'm not tucked up right now.


PS -Sadly the chief photographer in the house (ie the one who has pictures hanging in the National Portrait Gallery because he's actually rather good at it) is out at the moment... so you'll have to make do with my less professional effort.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Put Quite Simply... Bragging

There's no other phrase for it but showing off. Today's Christmas copy of OK! magazine features a fetching snap of yours truly looking like a chipmunk (with P) on its glossy pages. Which puts a smile on my self-satisfied face and appeases my shallow, fame-hungry nature as it's been a few months since I was last in there (with Paul – Lily Savage – O'Grady, ha ha). A quick consultation with my abacus reveals that this tots my OK! appearances up to, ooh, about seven or eight now. How many do I need before that deems me a socialite (or merely a hanger on)?

Monday, December 18, 2006

How Thick Do You Need To Be?

The Guardian has today printed a mini version of Schott's Almanac 2007 and I find myself reading this at "work". So far, two pieces of information have startled me. Firstly, tough guy rapper Busta Rhymes is really called Trevor Smith. Grr. But second of all, - that bastion of salesmanship that distributes anything and everything all around the world to the detriment of the independent retailer on the high street - has now included something called Text Stats on its website, to help potential readers decide how tricky a book will be for them to read.

These Text Stats includes a Fog Index: this tells you how many years of formal education you need to tackle a particular book (apparently 8.7 years to read Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" and a staggering 9.1 to read the loathsome "Da Vinci Code"). The stats also feature a count of complex words: this breaks down the percentage of words in the book that feature three of more syllables. Other categories are the average percentage of syllables per word; words per sentence; total characters in the entire book; total words in the entire book; and total sentences in the entire book.

Talk about spoon-feeding. I am horrified and genuinely aghast.

Just how stupid do you need to be? If you need this kind of information to help you decide whether or not you can read a book, quite frankly, you shouldn't be allowed to read books in the first place.

"Flags Of Our Fathers"

P and I went to a screening of Clint Eastwood's new Spielberg co-production "Flags Of Our Fathers" yesterday, and God, what a harrowing way to spend a Sunday morning. Released on 22 December, this is a bizarre choice of film to put out in the days before Christmas - but perhaps, since this is the least festive Christmas on record due to global warming, this is what we can expect from cinema schedulers in the years to come.

Coming in at over two hours long, "Flags Of Our Fathers" is a gut-wrenching, stomach-churning account of the true events of the American battle against Japan for Iwo Jima. The continually under-rated Ryan Rhilippe is again fantastic as John Bradley, one of the three surviving soliders who helped hoist an American flag at the top of the mountain, which was seen by the war-weary Americans as a symbol of hope. But the real story that unfolds is that it is all a con. Bradley and his colleagues - the Indian Ira Hayes and the naive Rene Gagnon - are thrilled to be taken out of the war and back to America, but stunned when they realise they are to be toured around America and hailed as heroes... when in fact they aren't the guys in the picture at all. The self-congratulatory back-patting of the American government and the ridiculous hyperbole that goes on is all highlighted here, and the irony of it is not lost in the wake of today's war-ridden climate.

The bloody images and severed limbs take their toll quite quickly, but the underlying message of pointless death and lie-fuelled governments is clear. But what really shocked was the appalling way the Americans dropped their "heroes" after the war was over, especially for Ira Hayes, who got a particularly bad treatment. Johnny Cash's song "The Ballad Of Ira Hayes" (not included here) says all you need to know.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Every Eye" by Isobel English

I'm torn. I've finally read a Persephone book that I didn't get on with. I've read a couple before that I didn't adore ("Reuben Sachs" by Amy Levy, "The Wise Virgins" by Leonard Woolf...) but I always found that eventually I got something out of those books that I didn't have before I started them. But with "Every Eye" I'm just not sure. Admittedly the situation was all wrong - I read a library edition, wrapped in that horrible thick plastic they coat library books in, and with a white label stuck over the endpapers and not a matching bookmark in sight. Plus my mind is distracted by thoughts of "the gendering of commodification' for my modernism essay, but I thought this mini novel might be a brief distraction.

However, I struggled to care what happened to Hatty, who struck me as a rather unlikable and dull protagonist - bizarrely dating a much older man who repulsed her, seemingly because she thought no one else was interested. Did she have no self respect? The book flits between the past and her present, which takes her to Spain with her current husband and on a trip to unravel a mystery surrounding her past. But it was a mystery that failed to capture my interest either... or one that I even really noticed.

To be fair, I have been very distracted while reading "Every Eye" and I'm sure it would benefit from a second reading, although at the moment I can't find the enthusiasm (or time). But what did interest me was reading the preface (which I always read after the novel as they have an annoying habit of giving away the plot) and learning that Isobel English was tortured by horrific migraines and emotional stress, which in hindsight added quite a lot to the book. So many critics rave about "Every Eye" that I'm sure I have missed something... one day I'll have to go back and find out what it was.

Persephone Latest

The Persephone online newsletter dated 30 November 2006 (which VE shamefacedly admits she has only just got around to reading) thrills me because it quotes my nomination for the shop on the Guardian's Independent Bookshop pages. My third appearance on the Persephone newsletter and still the novelty hasn't worn off.,,1398384,00.html

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh, Christmas Tree... beautiful you are.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Magic Of Rodin

VE was strolling alone along Piccadilly on Saturday afternoon (a vile experience in the run up to Christmas, but P wants a Savile Row shirt to be waiting under the tree and it had to be done), set to dash into the Royal Academy of Arts to pick him up a birthday card, when An Extraordinary Event happened.

First off, a Complete Stranger approached me in the courtyard by Rodin's impressive "Gates Of Hell" sculpture. As if that wasn't bad enough (this is central London after all), said stranger thrust a card into my hand and offered me a free ticket to go and see the Royal Academy's Rodin exhibition... for nothing... right now... he just has a spare ticket and doesn't want to waste it.

So I took it and thanked him very much, and as the Complete Stranger headed off to join the throngs on Piccadilly, I watched him, slightly dazed by this unusual turn of events. And then headed into the Academy, scrutinising the card he had given me as I went, assuming it to be some kind of con. But no... I showed it to an assistant, who thrust an e hibition guide into my hand and told me to bypass the queues and go straight in. So I did, baffled.

Now, I admit that I don't know a lot about Rodin - although I've seen The Kiss, The Thinker and The Gates Of Hell before (possibly in Paris, or maybe London?), and I did a mini project on him for my A'Level English coursework (although, as far as I know, Rodin is better known for his sculpting than hhis writing - don't doubt the minds of Yeovil College English Department).

And I also admit I wasn't hugely in the mood to see an exhibition (but I was of the opinion that An Opportunity had come my way and that if I didn't follow it up, something bad might happen - or, conversely, something really good might happen if I did follow it up). So I kind of whizzed through the whole thing in about 20 minutes (philistine, I hear you cry) and only stood to stare at the major works. And anyway, in my opinion, there is something Wrong about galleries hanging doodles drawn on the back of envelopes and labelling them 'important works of art' when the artist in question probably wishes they had been burnt as no one was ever meant to see them - and there were quite a few of these in place.

Anyway, it turns out my card is a magical one - and I, and whoever I pass it on to, can go to see the Rodin exhibition for free whenever they choose before January 1. So if you're interested, let me know. Otherwise, maybe I'll go again when I've prepared myself better for it and study him properly.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"This Morning!"

There was huge joy today as a lunchtime visit to the shops of the Oxo Tower led me to end up in a lift with Fern Britton and Philip Schofield of "This Morning!" fame. Your fickle writer has now decided that Fern (who is much thiner in real life) is the nicest person I have ever met in my entire life. Not only did she hold the door so I could get in the lift, but she also complimented me on my butterfly broach and said how pretty it was. Phil's hair is even whiter than you first thought - and he has amazing skin! It made my day (this coming from someone who managed to remain unimpressed during a face to face interview with Al Pacino. Clearly Al didn't have the same celebrity presence as Fern).

However, when I returned to my desk all a jitter (I'm at a top TV fortnightly this week), not one of my colleagues was impressed. Miseries!