It’s quite funny, actually. Because more recently we have dined with Grand Designs several times a week. (One runs out of things to chat about.) And he’s not bad, Kevin, once you get past the pattern of his constant incredulity over people’s house ideas.
You may have noticed I have a penchant for photographing magazines, like Vi. Here’s another one.
For some time now they’ve publicised an author event with Balsam Karam, whose photo is instantly recognisable, despite me never having read her. She was part of Son’s speed-dating an author event in Edinburgh a few years ago. I can only deduce that Balsam is doing well.
The photo above was the second of her in about six pages of my latest Vi. I also noted the man sitting on the floor reading. Not recognising him, I peered very intently at the very small print and managed to see that he’s Mark Isitt, presenter of the Swedish version of Grand Designs…
Any relation to ‘my’ Isitt? I wondered. Peered even more, and found that yes, David Isitt is his father. I say is, because as I may have mentioned before, Sweden is well organised for finding people, and I believe he is still alive. Which makes me happy. He was one of my lecturers at the English department in Gothenburg, and he was the one we started off with in Brighton, where the teaching took place. One subject was Phonetics, and David was unusual for an Englishman in managing a very passable Gothenburg accent. He said that’s how his children spoke.
And that’s clearly this Mark, who’s almost Kevin. In this article he describes his parents as a bit extreme; always reading.
Nothing wrong with that, I say.
And he has some rather nice bookshelves. Danish, apparently. I now want Danish shelves too.
I didn’t read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this morning either. Had a date across town at the ungodly hour of eight, with a plumber, and on the basis of needing entertainment should I become stuck over there, the fourth HP struck me might well suffice. Daughter will have felt vindicated, just as she did after our short weekend out of town, when for a one night away I packed not only the last fifty pages of The Prisoner of Azkaban, but also The Goblet of Fire. Just in case. She told me I was crazy. I merely felt I was exercising foresight.
She was right, of course.
We went to Fife, to celebrate Dodo’s birthday, and to take much of our junk to her parents’ ‘new’ house. Son had booked us in for lunch at the East Pier, which was as good as he’d made us believe. But cold. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, and we’d been frying ourselves next to the sea. But out of the sun it was cold enough to wish we’d brought jumpers.
Oh well. But on the short stroll over, I at least had the pleasure of encountering Val McDermid. So that was the book-y aspect of the day taken care of. (Son was also childishly pleased to recognise the man who does all the property video walk-throughs in Fife…)
The next day, after I had read not a single word of Harry Potter or anything else, we went shopping. I was going for shoes, scones and books, but it turned out to be more books and Aloe Vera. With that special knack I have, we had taken ourselves to St Andrews for the first day of The Open. The 150th, at that. But since we’d entered town from the ‘wrong’ direction, we had no problems, and left as soon as we could, meeting all the incoming cars.
Post-crack-of-dawn plumbers, I am now several chapters into HP4.
We have almost forgotten about polio, haven’t we? These days we fear other illnesses, even if we are still given protection against polio; both the baby and its parents. In Elizabeth Laird’s new book about Charity Brown, her heroine has been held captive by polio. This is soon after WWII. But thinking back on what happens in this semi-autobiographical novel, I reckon it’s religion that holds Charity back more.
Her deeply religious family are poor, and when she returns home after a long spell in hospital, it is to a very cold house. For her father it is more important to seek new members for their little church, than to earn money to keep his wife and four children comfortable. They are always warned what not to do, and Charity remembers it all, and heeds it even when she’d rather not.
And then, all of a sudden, they have inherited a large house, and the parents intend to use it to do good [to others].
Their new life is puzzling, but ultimately both interesting and promising. Charity makes a friend. Maybe. Religion so easily gets in the way of everything. Her older siblings want new things in life. Visitors from other countries turn up, and it’s not always the ones you trust who deserve that trust. War enemies are also people.
This is a heart-warming and lovely story. Not your standard postwar tale, but a new look on what might have been.
We were getting some dips and stuff in Sainsburys some time ago, Daughter and I. I rarely go, but we were alone for the evening and wanted something nice. We exited through the aisle where you can now buy books. Which is nice. Overheard a man with small daughter ask her if she wanted a nice book. That too is very nice. That he’d ask and that she’d get something along with the potatoes and fish fingers. I just prayed silently ‘not one by DW, please!’.
Have no idea what she got. But we got ourselves a Philip Pullman. That was nice, but somehow a little unexpected, along with the dips and stuff.
It was The Imagination Chamber, about which we knew nothing. I took it to be the short book they publish while impatiently waiting for the last Book of Dust. Just to let us have some crumbs. (Seems it might not have been, as I have since found out about another short Pullman to come soon.)
I could tell it was going to be possible to read it in about fifteen minutes. To tell the truth, I wasn’t hopeful. But, you know, it was rather lovely. I found myself in the His Dark Materials world again, reading – very short – snippets about many of the characters we already know. I don’t think they were borrowed from the books. And they probably weren’t ‘deleted scenes’. Too good for that.
So yes, I enjoyed The Imagination Chamber. It was like poetry with friends. And the physical book is beautiful, especially in these days of carelessly churned out book covers. Thick paper and red edges. It’s a volume you want to hug and stroke a bit.
So what were they doing sticking an almighty price sticker on the back, which is ugly, it is not even straight, and I daren’t try to remove it because the first tentative pull didn’t yield in a promising manner.
Thinking back to Köln twelve years ago, feeling grateful for having been able to travel to concerts, seeing and hearing Roger Whittaker live. Today he’s 87, and here’s wishing him a huge birthday cake, if only to accommodate all those … Continue reading →