Monthly Archives: August 2007

School’s back

I really must apologise for slacking. I’d expected to do more writing, but was overcome by lack of time. And now my excuse is having people to sort out.

Son is off to Edinburgh, and has so far only been equipped with laptop, laundry basket and a toast-a-bag. The essentials, in other words. Duvets and plates and things are still to be found.

Daughter needs less sorting, but Year 10 still feels like a biggish step. Tech coursework to be printed and school ties to be chopped in half. (I know. It’s mad.)

Even the bookwitch is getting an education, albeit a short one. And not a minute too soon, I hear you saying. I’m shortly off to an Arvon course, at one of those places mentioned in Adele Geras’ Made in Heaven, with all the goings-on… It’s internet free, which will prove interesting from a blogging point of view.

I have just finished reading My Fathers’ Daughter by Hannah Pool, who is one of the course tutors. Despite not having been adopted from Eritrea, I found Hannah’s book very easy to identify with, and it’s a real page turner. I just wanted to read on and on.


Rottweiler weekend

How do you name your pets? I’d meant to write about pigs, but I was inundated with Rottweilers last weekend. I rarely socialise with dogs at all, and then I met two Rottweilers all in one go. One on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Saturday’s Rottweiler was the more literary of the two, being named for an Astrid Lindgren character, Ronja. Sunday’s Rottweiler was a plain Jack. His vet owner had previously shown more literary tastes when naming her pigs Romeo and Julia.

Last summer Daughter and I met some other literary pigs. Another Ronja, who was mourning her recently departed friend Pippi, and the boys Bill and Bull. They are the Crabbe and Goyle style friends of the bully Måns in Gösta Knutsson’s Pelle Svanslös, aka Peter No-Tail. Tried looking for books in English about Pelle, and could only find the video cartoons, but they are very good.

The previously mentioned cats that eat people’s breakfast have thoroughly sensible cat names like Carrot and a fairly untranslatable pun name.

The library

Swedes are good at some things and not at others. Very much like most nationalities, except the good and the not so good varies. Fancy looking new public buildings are among the better things.

Probably, anyway. I didn’t feel Halmstad needed a new library. The old one where I went as a child was good enough for me and had a great fifties feel to it. Though most likely it was too small, as they said.

Now there is a new elegant building, which reaches out into the river, with lots of windows. Masses of space. Everything is glass and pale wood and lime green. (What they’ll do when lime green goes out of fashion is anybody’s guess.)

There are plenty of public computers, that don’t always work. There’s a café with a terrace to the park on the side. They have lockers (lime green) and toilets. There’s a reading area with a diverse selection of daily papers.

Halmstads bibliotek

Staff are less plentiful, as they are reasonably paid and, hence, expensive. But those who are there dress well, so are also nice to look at.

Checking books in and out is for the customers to do. Being not terribly good with anything new and technical, I often come to grief with these things. At least it happens in nice surroundings.

I can never work out if all these new beautiful buildings are worth it, considering the money that could have been spent on other things.

Rosoff’s third

This time round there wasn’t a shortage of proofs for Meg Rosoff’s third book. Though luckily it didn’t turn out to be like buses either; coming in threes. It even seems I got one before Meg knew they were ready, but I dare say she had seen the contents of her book before the rest of us. In fact, when I heard what it was about, I was almost disappointed and felt it wasn’t a very Meg-y subject. But I should have understood that Meg knows what she’s doing. What I Was is the most wonderful story. It’s not got the New Yorker’s wit from How I Live Now, and none of the neurotic humour from Just In Case. It’s itself.

The book is about two sixteen-year-old boys in East Anglia, and is set in 1962. One of the boys goes to boarding school and the other lives alone in a cottage by the sea, on the outside of society. The schoolboy narrator meets Finn when out, and is drawn to this very different boy. He is pathetically grateful for any attention, and is even grateful that Finn doesn’t ask him to leave.

Meg describes life in a boys’ boarding school as though she has personal experience of it. She also seems to have had a past living wild, communing with nature, like Finn. And there’s quite a bit of Anglo Saxon history. She’s even put a witch in the story, so I’d like to think that’s me, except Meg’s witch is more clear sighted than I am.

There’s a lot here in this beautifully short book. It works as a very powerful love story, except not in the traditional sense. As with her earlier books, it’s Meg’s very special voice that makes the story. And I’d recommend you have a hanky standing by. You may need it.

Sad news

I was very sad to learn that Siobhan Dowd died a few days ago. She was so kind and friendly, and seemed quite happy to enter into email correspondence with an admiring book blogger. I heard some weeks ago that Siobhan’s cancer had got worse, but hoped with all my heart that she would hang on for longer. Much longer.

There are some links about Siobhan on Dina Rabinovitch’s blog, and also on Declan Burke’s blog (right), if you want to read more.

There is even a comment from Siobhan on this blog, back in June. And do read her books.

Old friends

Son, Daughter and I have just spent two days with School Friend and her family. It’s lovely to visit them, even though I wish Husband of SF hadn’t taught their cats that the last bit of breakfast is for them. The last of my breakfast is definitely for me.

SF’s oldest daughter E keeps surprising me. Having often felt the odd one out with my interest in books and writing, I can’t quite get over the fact that E is another one. She has just finished her librarian studies at university. Before that E did a year’s writing course and she just presented me with an anthology of stories from her school. And she has a past working for a bookshop. My watering hole, in fact.

It’s quite nice to find I’m not alone. And I didn’t really mean anything bad with that comment about the cats. Charming habit, when you think of it. Thank you for having us.

Remus and Iorek

Is it OK for adult female readers to fancy fictional men in (their) children’s books?

After a wet and muddy walk on holiday some years ago I found myself with another couple of mothers, discussing Remus Lupin. I’d secretly found him very attractive in the Prisoner of Azkaban, but then I know I’m weird. Now I was comparing notes with others. And soon after I heard J K Rowling admitting in an interview that she rather liked him too.

If liking a werewolf is bad; is a bear better? An armoured bear. I really like Iorek Byrnison from His Dark Materials. It’s probably not that he’s all that good looking; more that he has integrity and feels safe. And in the audio book he has an attractive voice.

Can anyone suggest other candidates for oldies to like?

Sea water

As Son and I frolicked (nearly, anyway) in the sea, I was reminded of how I’ve long claimed that sea water has medicinal properties. Though not by drinking the stuff, I hasten to add. I know for a fact that various skin imperfections (don’t want to put you off entirely) have simply disappeared after a week or two of contact with sea water.

Caroline Lawrence seems to know of this, as she wrote about collecting sea water for healing purposes in one of her Roman Mysteries. I’m always pleased to find how right I am…

Beach at Haverdal

Pure medicine.


Do we get many dragonflies in Britain? I ask because I only recall seeing one or two. Here on holiday we get lots of them, and I find that exciting not just because they are beautiful, but because of their role in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Though I wonder if Philip’s dragonflies are bigger than the ones here. I can’t imagine any of these capable of carrying a rider as large as the Gallivespians, even though they are really small.

Some years ago “our” dragonflies had an unfortunate tendency to fly straight into the livingroom and get themselves entangled in the venetian blinds. In the end I got quite skilled at untangling them again.


I never thought I’d be singing the praises of my holiday newspaper Hallandsposten here in the blog. But it really is pretty good on books and culture. I have no idea how many copies they sell, but the borough of Halmstad has a population of about 90,000. Most households subscribe to the paper, which is cheaper than buying it in a shop. If it’s not with you by five a.m. you have cause for concern.

Three pages on books yesterday, with one on children’s books. Three reviews of girls’ fiction; two Swedish books and Jacqueline Wilson’s Midnight which has just been translated. They have a serious backlog of Jacqueline’s books here, which can only be good news for girls, who have plenty to look forward to.

Large spread on Liza Marklund and her latest book. All I know about her is that one of her audiobooks (in English) had a warning in the BBC catalogue for language and explicit content.

And it seems that the publishers Wahlström & Widstrand can’t have heard of, as they have just launched a few of their authors on youtube instead. People seem to think it’s a good idea, which will help them decide if an author is worth reading.