It’s all getting a bit dramatic, isn’t it? People are raging and storming, they are crying and shouting, threatening and cajoling. So what’s it to be? Will it be Aye? Will it be Nay? Will Scotland be a nation once again or will they stay together for better or worse? David Cameron seems to have had a heart transplant, or possibly a lobotomy, as he is now sounding like an emotional teenager; and other English leaders aren’t much better. It’s not very impressive to hare up North the moment your power-base is threatened, if you have ignored Scotland’s existence in the past.
Still, for one standing on the sidelines as I am, it’s an interesting situation; and the most interesting part of it, is the way the vote has turned, thanks seemingly to a previously silent slice of the electorate. 98% of the eligible population has now registered to vote, and that includes a substantial wodge of people who have never voted in a previous election.
Broadly speaking, I am sympathetic to Independence. Scotland has a long history as a separate country: until a few hundred years ago it had its own parliament and laws and waged war on its own account. It has its own language and culture and is well able to maintain an independent existence. Moreover, under the current system it gets a raw deal: being so far from London, it is generally forgotten by MP’s except when they want a handy faraway place to locate some nuclear missiles. So if I were there now I would vote yes.
Most of the ‘no’ arguments seem to be financial. There has been some general muttering about how the two countries would be better off as one; but in the main, opposition has centred on the pound (ye cannae have it) and on the threats by certain institutions, such as Standard Life, to leave if there’s a Yes vote. I think such behaviour is unconscionable: it is fine for individuals to express opinions but for large financial institutions to seek to influence the outcome of an election, looks like bullying. I don’t like it. Besides, nobody really knows how things will be after independence, either politically or financially, so they should wait and see – or else keep their own counsel.
So – in three days it will all be over and we will know the outcome. Which way would you vote?
I begin to understand how weekends are for many people: it went by in a total blur. First there was of course The Trip; taking Holly to Bolton. We had a great journey there, despite an emotional farewell to brother and boyfriend; and when we arrived the place was unsurprisingly heaving with parents carrying boxes. Holly found her room, scoped out the kitchen and talked to her neighbour: everyone seemed friendly and after we helped her settle in we took her to Sainsbury’s to stock up on food. Then we left her to it. It felt very strange: I was the only one who didn’t cry when we left her, but I will admit to a lump in the throat as we negotiated the weird mix of old, new and derelict buildings that is Bolton. It was odd for me going back there because I used to live nearby about thirty years ago, so that there were bits I recognised and bits that were totally alien. One thing Bolton hasn’t done that Leicester has done brilliantly, is to convert its old industrial warehouses into living-spaces. That has revolutionised the West End and other parts too.
But I digress. On the way back we missed the turn-off and ended up discovering exactly why there is a toll-road past Birmingham – it cuts out mile after mile of tedious motorway. I knew this but had forgotten – and in an endless quest for the M69 we went on and on until we had almost given up hope when we came upon it.
Then on Sunday we went to church and then whizzed back and forth bringing a few neglected bits from the old house before dropping off the keys; after which we headed up to Bradgate Park. It was lovely up there: so peaceful looking down on the city. It was like being one of the gods looking down on humanity. In the evening I took advantage of it to go to Yessim’s and then this morning we went to pick up a lawnmower before filling the car up (gulp!) and dropping it off.
And that was the weekend. How was yours? Ms Gilchrist, I still haven’t had an answer to the ‘some of it may still be in the trash’ question. I’ll give you a clue: ‘someone ate the only good thing going on in my life!’
I had a great post ready yesterday; I had loads of ideas on sitcoms and had even done a bit of research! I wasn’t quite ready to post, so I clicked on ‘save draft’ – and apparently what those words mean to WordPress are: ‘please delete all my carefully-prepared content’. To be fair it did ask me ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ and like an idiot instead of checking what it thought I wanted, I just clicked on ‘Yes of course I do, you stupid machine!’ (we’ve all got one of those buttons, right?) – and it went. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Oh wait – let me look. Some of it might still be in the trash.
AHA! Well, Ms Gilchrist, can you tell me where that quote comes from? Some of it may still be in the trash?
OK so, moving on.. today I’m feeling quite emotional. I didn’t expect it to affect me – after all, she’s twenty years old and has spent the last few months going back and forth between here and her boyfriend’s house, so you’d think I’d be used to the idea by now – but today is the day that my first-born child leaves home; and probably for good, although she’ll be back in the holidays. That’s a big thing. Although in theory she could come back here to live, I can’t see it happening. I think This is It.
Where did those twenty years go? Actually you can read about where they went in great detail if you wish, because my memoir is nearly finished! Yes, I’m on schedule with the revisions and all I have to go now is tighten up the style and check the whole thing for errors. That’ll take me up to the beginning of October, when I shall park it and wait to hear from the publishers.
I’ll keep you posted. Off now to pick up the hired car.
The other week I took a slim volume out of the library; it was a list of 100 great American novels everyone should read before they die (or go to Kansas), and I was unsurprised to discover that I’d only read about a third of them. I think we tend to neglect American novels over here. It’s partly because we’ve got plenty of our own to be going on with; partly that it’s a bit of an effort coming to terms with another culture that has its own assumptions and frame of reference; but also – if we’re honest – a slice of prejudice. There’s a feeling that the American novel, however great, cannot possibly measure up to the best of British fiction.
So for all these reasons – and also because I need to try more new writers – when I went to the library yesterday I picked up Don de Lillo. People are always talking about Don de Lillo and for some reason I resisted reading him, but the book I picked up, ‘Underworld’, is utterly brilliant! I’ve only read a few pages but I am already convinced that this is a major writer. This is the great American novel. I’ll keep you posted when I’ve read more.
But there is one thing I don’t like about US writers and it is this: the tendency to run together words which would otherwise be hyphenated. Words like neoconservative, antifascist, coattails and nonviolent are shoved together without so much as a byyourleave. It seems that American writers have declared war on the hyphen – and my objection to this is that it makes the reader work unnecessarily hard. For example, in the first pages of ‘Underworld’ I came across the word ‘pregame’. When you stop and think about it, it is obviously ‘pre-game’ – but there’s the rub: I had to stop and think about it, and this interrupted the enjoyable and engaging flow of the narrative while I wondered what the hell this new word was and whether it might be a conflation of the Italian ‘prego’ and the Spanish ‘digame’. Since both those words are equivalent to ‘Yes?’ – meaning what would you like? in a restaurant context – this is not beyond the bounds of possibility. So I wasted time and energy and interrupted my reading in order to figure that out. NOT NECESSARY!
When I’ve not been reading or writing, I’ve been having a think about the art of sitcom: I’ve just finished a run-through (not, please, a runthrough) of Black Books and I couldn’t help noticing that the scripts became more surreal as the series progressed. That set me off thinking about the writers of ‘Dad’s Army’ and how their stuff degenerated as their careers went on – but I’ll have to save that for another post as it’s already nine o’clock and I have to write my memoir and prepare for Spanish.
You might recognise today’s title as a quotation from Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’. We had this read out at the naming ceremony of at least one of our offspring; and it’s a reminder that you do not own your children and cannot ultimately direct their destiny:
This seems particularly apt in a week where one of our children is leaving home forever. Next Saturday we will take Holly up to Bolton to begin her degree in English and Creative Writing; she seems much happier about it now. University is a whole different ball-game nowadays: she has already talked to fellow-students on-line; she knows who she will be sharing accommodation with and what the place looks like; and she has already booked tickets for events in Freshers’ Week. I’m excited for her: I really hope it goes well.
Our other offshoot, Daniel, is making great progress. With one bound he seems to have shaken off his illness – he has been back at college a week now and started his new job on Saturday, serving drinks at the Tigers’ Rugby Ground. He seemed to get on all right, though Holly reckoned he had the worst boss of all. Still, it’s great that he’ll be earning money now.
My son, though I say it myself, is proving to be a very witty lad. This is no surprise; he made jokes right from when he was little, but nowadays they have a clever, ironic twist. Yesterday he came up with the phrase ‘passive progressive’ and today he said something even wittier but I can’t remember what it was. Anyway I’d better stop now otherwise I’ll sound like one of those mothers who’s always banging on about how brilliant and undervalued her children are…
Yesterday was busy, what with the Quaker Meeting in the morning and the CND Garden Party in the afternoon. This was very pleasant; great weather, good music, good company (I realised that I have known many of the people since I first came to Leicester in 1987!) and we came home with several great books, some apples and a kettle! Not to mention raising money for CND.
I’ve been having serious doubts about The Archers. Originally set up to inform people about farming, it has long since outgrown that first remit. Yes, it’s a soap, but this ‘everyday story of country folk’ has always seemed to be rooted in the lives of characters who, though not actually real, appear to be real. There was a sense of heightened reality but sensational plot-lines were well-spaced enough to give the illusion of listening to an ‘everyday country’ story. We felt that these characters were a part of our lives, rather than some group of celebs and misfits giving us a window into their shattered existence.
The Archers has always had the ability to shock, but it never felt gratuitous or sensationalist. Not until recently. Nigel’s sudden death was bad enough; but it has been followed in fairly short order by Tom’s jilting of Kirsty and subsequent disappearance; Roy and Elizabeth’s affair, Jess’s pregnancy bombshell and Rob’s perfidy – and, the final straw, the road-planning threat to the very heart of Ambridge itself, Brookfield.
Any one of these story-lines would have made a fitting high-point in the narrative, but to have them all come together makes it look as though the producers are scared – scared that if they don’t keep up the level of drama, people will lose interest.
Well, I’m losing interest right now. The series has lathered itself into such a level of soapiness that you can’t see the flesh for the froth. Let’s have more fun stories like Susan’s hair and Jennifer’s kitchen – and fewer bombshells, please. The Archers used to manage to be both entertaining and comforting, but it’s starting to feel like living in a war zone.
Have a listen to the Omnibus and tell me what you think:
Sometimes I get a glimpse into the mind of Mark, and it is utterly chilling. There was an item on the news about an idea to replace bank passwords and pin numbers by technology which would scan the unique pattern of veins in your palm. ‘Great,’ says Mark. ‘So now instead of taking your password, they’ll just chop off your finger!’
I don’t think he was listening properly otherwise he’d have realised they’d have to chop off your whole hand – however I humoured him and pointed out that it was a big step to go from hacking into an account to hacking off a finger.
‘It’s just a procedure,’ he said.
Just a procedure? Yeah, right! Like I say, chilling…
Mind you, it fits with Mark’s other mental tendencies. In the world of Mark being late is being late. If you’re not on time or early, then you’re late – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a minute or an hour; it’s still late, and that’s BAD. So I guess he’s just applying the same principle to the whole hacking into/hacking off debate.