Friday, 29 May 2015

In Glastonbury Town...

When we come to Somerset we stay very near Glastonbury... where The Old Man be very impressed by the Biggest Veggie/Organic Supermarket he have ever seen. And this time he is also gob-smacked by a street musician playing a Hurdy Gurdy with great vigour and skill, so that he do actually give him some money.

We do live in West Cornwall .... where I am used to concepts taking over towns and hollowing them out from the inside. (I speak of St. Ives of course, that Barnum & Bailey Circus of the Fine Arts, where every other shop is a "Gallery" and you cannot move for Art and all Things Artistic.) .... Glastonbury now has a similar relationship with Spirituality.... I do not mind greatly. I have woo-wooed a plenty in my time. And, after the prevalence of Art in Cornwall, I find it refreshing to walk down a high street and be faced with an approaching gentleman ambling along in full dhoti and turban. This be after noticing a white-dressed lady peering (somewhat grumpily) out of a shop window which is festooned with golden pyramidal structures - the "Buddha Maitreya Soul Therapy Centre", no less. The Old Man has noticed however that the crystal shops and woo-woo centres on the High Street have increased since our visit three years ago. He no longer can find WH Smiths for his newspaper and have to hunt out a paper from a corner shop down a side street.

So it be that, tired and bewildered on the day of The Funeral, we fill a shopping basket in the Organic Supermarket and...The Old Man clutching as many Cheddar Strawberries as he can manage... we approach the tills to pay.
Bewildered by the loose arrangement of chatting people, The Old Man do ask:
"Is this the queue?"
"Does this look like a queue?" says a gentleman I shall call Mr Philosopher.
"???" say we.
"Your consciousness should bring awareness of those who are here before you." says Mr Enlightened, a young man with a "rasta do" to rival an Indian fakir.
Abashed, we do slide in front of a till... now philosophically unsure of  the existence of queuing whilst simultaneously worrying that we have destroyed its essential organic process.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Somerset Stay

A bit of a time with family dealings... not the least of which is the funeral of a family member of The Old Man. In fact The Old Man do have a say in the proceedings and opted for an eco-coffin and a Humanist service. I think this may not have gone down well with some interested parties and I expect their jaws be still on floor ... (sigh).... Never mind.
The Humanist celebrant be lovely woman from Wells who produced a thoughtful dedication that spelled out the various stages of what she herself referred to as "a long and varied life". If the offended parties do take umbrage... well... they weren't there for all of that varied life, were they? For us... who do get a bit "shunned" by some... it was a healing thing that stitched together those "rich" variations.
However... it has all been quite exhausting and not sorted yet.

But we managed to take a walk over Shapwick Heath... a childhood haunt of The Old Man.... on a beautiful day. We walked along the main Drove and into Canada Farm with its wooded lane. To hear the warblers, a persistent cuckoo, and see hoards of blue damsel flies and a brimstone butterfly.... Well that were lovely.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Grey Doll's Criminal Reading Travels: Egypt, Italy and Ireland

I likes to read crime fiction and I likes to travel when I read.
(As opposed to reading when I travel. I don't really go anywhere except in my imagination, see.)

So I thought I'd point you to some of the books I have read recently... and to their reviews over on the Euro Crime site.

I enjoy the books of British Sudanese writer Parker Bilal. "The Burning Gates" is his latest novel featuring Cairo-based Sudanese exile and private eye, Makana. And it does not disappoint. Makana hits the privileged world of art collectors and Cairo society but soon ends up in a stew of murder, stolen art works, war criminals and mercenaries. What I love about Bilal's Makana is his wit, his cautious humanity, his rich and varied pool of friends and acquaintances... and his sheer survivor instinct. Makana is a man who does not wear his heart on his sleeve but it bleeds all the same. Read a full review of Parker Bilal's "The Burning Gates" here.

I have also travelled to Italy for Conor Fitzgerald's "Bitter Remedy". This is the fifth in his series featuring  Commissario Alec Blume of the Rome police. Blume has found himself out of his personal depth and enrols on a natural remedies course which maroons him in the Italian countryside, increasingly ill, but nevertheless drawn into the search for a missing Romanian girl. Alec Blume is a quirky protagonist... who requires some patience to understand... as most of his workmates and his long suffering partner would testify. But there is subtle wit to be found in his neurotic dealings. Read the full review here.

Finally I visit Northern Ireland and the second Celcius Daly novel of Anthony Quinn. "Border Angels" takes us into the territory of sex-trafficking, rural brothels in ruined farmhouses and shipping containers. Daly is on the trail of a trafficked woman after the death of a pimp. The trail takes us, amongst other places, to a ruined half-finished housing development and a developer's vanity-project mansion, giving us a squint at Ireland after the crash. Quinn's settings are some distance from the gritty streets of Belfast but his eery, rural landscapes of mists and thorn hedges are unforgettable. The full review is here.

And I'm staying in Northern Ireland for a while with Stuart Neville's sixth novel, due out in June - "Those We Left Behind". It's a brilliant, chilling story. I'll let you know more later.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Now What...

Gloom descends on this household for various reasons... not the least of them electoral.
Here, we have just lost a good independent-minded local MP through the collapse of the middle ground... roundly helped by the Lib Dem's original decision to go into "coalition". No amount of bleating on the part of Lib Dem leaders that they mollified Tory ravages by so doing will help. Those voters who were not Lib Dem supporters remain unimpressed and view them as weaklings, or worse... self-important weaklings. And a good portion of party-faithfuls and tactical voters view them as traitors.
About parliamentary Labour's hubris... I have nothing to say except that, judging by this morning's media headlines quoting the views of potential new leaders... they have learned nothing.
And now we have what we have. A frustrated electorate has voted for "who they want"... leaving the middle ground to collapse, the diverging edges defined but with no arena in which to discuss or compromise. It seems to me that the only solution will be electoral reform, proportional representation, whatever, in order to regain some working balance. Meanwhile... our new government will set about unpicking as much as they can of the tattered remnants of  the "State" system before they skid-addle out of Europe.
I honestly fear more unrest in the streets but... as I said.... I am feeling gloomy.

Meanwhile... we have to get to a funeral... at some point.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Death In The Family

A close family member of The Old Man has died, a parent in fact. Very elderly. And quite some distance away, both emotionally and physically.
The Old Man do not quite know what he feels. As the family member grew more ill and frail... we had to dip our toes into concepts of power of attorney and wills and wishes.... causing us to contemplate our own mortalities and frailties.
With The Old Man not being wildly robust himself... the dreaded dash to the bedside kept being put off until more decisions had been taken and more was understood. And so it is that... once things seemed settled all round.... the family member died.
Truthfully the final news is a relief. And as it is with such things... we are still in the land of moment by moment decisions and phone calls. We will have to get there some time in the next week or so and make ourselves acquainted with people not seen for fifty years... or ever.
... And also make ourselves acquainted with our feelings, I guess.
It is some tiring. The Old Man do come over a bit wobbly today....I do make him some soup (not chicken) and we do press on.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Election Time: Paper, Paper Everywhere

I have never been so besieged by party political leaflets in all my life. And they are all from one party. The Conservatives.

My, but they are lucky to have such generous donors. For some leaflets do get thrust through the letter box by hand and some do come with the post. At least two a day.
The other morning The Old Man do bolt out the front door as soon as the leaflet got stuffed through the box. But the phantom Tory Litterer have melted into the undergrowth. Which is just as well 'cos The Old Man be growling and spitting like a Rottweiler on guard duty... and there will... one day... be blood.

For myself... I am thinking that I could return to my "jewellery from recycled materials" days, what I did early on in Cornwall by way of creative penny earnings. Actually...that all started up when I lived in London and got tired of the pizza-takeaway menus coming through the door.....

Same thing really, ain't it.

PS. I shall be voting, mind... and I do know who I be voting for.