Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Book and Theatre Review

The dinner went well. No leftovers, which is a good sign. There were only 7 diners in the end - second youngest daughter's partner had an essay to write. Which didn't stop her from texting s-y-d at least 4 times during the meal because she was lonely. My English sister had a ball. She lives alone these days and misses family dinners.

I finally finished reading TC Boyle's The Inner Circle. It was good - it was TCB after all - but more character-driven than I am fond of. I like a good plot, I'm afraid. But at least I finished it, unlike Drop City, which I couldn't like.

I've also read Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy, and loved it. It took me a while to get into. At first I thought it read much like a first novel from a good idea that someone might go back to and rewrite after having a successful publication experience (as Fforde indeed has); but as I read on I became more and more aware that it is actually just as accomplished a piece of writing as the earlier books. Need I say I loved them too? It's a superbly realised crime story with a difference - all the main players are nursery rhyme characters, including Humpty Dumpty (the victim) and Jack Spratt (the seemingly overlooked but very much under-estimated detective). References to other fictional detectives (Inspector Moose of Oxford, and Inspector Dogleash) are amusing, and the short newspaper items that introduce each chapter are mini masterpieces of fictional journalism. A great example of two merged genres: fantasy and crime. And I think there's a Fford I might have missed, so I'll have to have a look for it next time I'm at the library.

However, much as I enjoyed Spratt's crime-solving genius, I have to say the highlight of my last few weeks has been Menopause, the Musical! This stage show knocks the socks off anything I've seen in years. It helps that I knew most of the songs that were adapted for the show ("It's my body, and I'll cry if I want to", "Just stand and fan" [to "Stand by your man"], and "My thighs" ["My guy"]) to name the most memorable ones. "Fever" hardly needed adapting at all! Baby boomers unite - you've nothing to lose but your hot flushes. It's not only hysterically, eye-wateringly funny, it's remarkably empowering, and the scriptwriters and talented performers achieved it without once diminishing men in the process. The man sitting in front of me (surrounded by middle-aged and elderly women) laughed as hard as anyone. It's very impressive, and I'll probably have to go and see it again. It'll be worth the cost for the Tina Turner parody alone.

The comet is still barely visible, on the nights when the sky is as well, but it won't be for much longer. It's been fun.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Eating on a holiday

It's Sunday of a three-day weekend, and it feels like there's no urgency to do anything. I guess that's the holiday feeling. Though I have plenty to do - I've got 8 people to cook dinner for tonight. Have a barbie, I hear you say.

Sorry - the whole entertaining thing is not mine. I read lots of house and garden books and magazines (because I love design and seeing what's possible), and I'm so over the whole indoor-outdoor flow thing. Isn't there anyone in suburbia who can honestly admit, 'actually I hate entertaining a crowd, can never think what to feed them, and wish I could afford to eat out with people instead'? No. Those people don't spend a squillion dollars renovating their houses. We are the ones whose aforesaid crowds would have to slum it on a rotting deck and eat whatever vegetables are left in the bottom of the fridge 2 nights before shopping day.

So why am I doing it? Because my daughter and her partner (both university students) come to dinner after they work on Sundays, have a regular family meal sitting at the table telling jokes and reminiscing about the time Dad got his leg stuck in the deck after stomping on it in his size 8s to see which bits were rotten (and other such family treasures), and then we watch 2 episodes of Buffy (we're half way through season three). Now that's what I call entertainment.

Only tonight there are complications. My brother-in-law offered to come and set up new email addresses in the wake of getting broadband (since I remain stubbornly incompetent about this sort of thing, and still know more than the man of the house) and so I asked if he wanted to come for dinner at the same time. His response was suspiciously rapid - it must be a while since I last invited him. And my sister (the English one) is currently on her own as Dad (with whom she is staying) has gone off on a road trip with his marginally younger brother (they are both in their 80s) to see my ailing cousin, so I suggested she come as well, so she can catch up with weekly-visitor-daughter (and partner) and brother-in-law (and partner).

So there's me (who doesn't normally eat an evening meal, and no starchy foods), youngest daughter (vegetarian, hates carrots), second-youngest daughter (carb queen, no vegetables), s-y-d's partner (fussy eater like myself, but not as easily managed, as I haven't known her long enough), sister (prefers raw food only, but willing to adapt for company), and three men with hearty appetites who will eat anything, thank goodness, though one likes his food as spicy as possible and the others are fond of mild curries only. Where do you start?

It's going to be roast venison (the man of the house is a hunter - it's our staple meat) sliced and served with a bed of rice and whatever vegetables I can find in the bottom of the fridge 2 nights before ... cut up large so they can be extracted as necessary, in a rough approximation of a moderately spicy Senegalese dish technically based on fish. Plus falafels. And a completely indulgent dessert because everyone likes Eton Mess (except possibly second youngest daughter who, inexplicably, doesn't like cream. But there's ice cream as well). The barbecue (and Buffy) won't even get a look-in.

PS We managed to see the comet on night 2, only just, as the clouds were at the horizon, but McNaught was barely above them, then last night it rained, so no luck on night 3.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Comet excitement

Wow! I got to see a real comet. I mean, I saw Halley's in 1984, but it was a pipsqueak compared to McNaught. It appeared in a miraculously clear patch of sky in the south west above the hills of Wellington at about 9.45pm on 19th January, and it actually looked like a comet, with a real tail and everything. Initially, watchers thought it was moving fast across the sky, but it soon became apparent that it wasn't moving - the clouds were being particularly vigorous in creating the illusion of movement on the comet's part.

One cool aspect of the experience was that I was with my sister, who lives in England and with whom I'd been to Te Papa (NZ's national museum) and dinner, so it was a special thing to do together. The comet was bright enough to see with the naked eye (through the pinhole of my clenched fist in my case, as I forgot my glasses) before there were an appreciable number of stars out, and despite the city lights reflecting off the clouds.

I hope to see it again tonight; possibly not so bright, as "they" said last night would be the best night to view it, but I'm thinking the cloud cover is not really clearing. It looked promising this afternoon, but things have taken a turn for the worse, weather-wise.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Joining up

Well, I don't know what to expect, but it seemed like a good idea to have a blog. I've long been computer-phobic and now I have a job in which I maintain a website. Go figure. So now I garden in the mornings and spend my afternoons at the computer. It's not how I expected my life to go, but it seems to work. This is my first post, and I haven't actually decided on a theme yet. I kind of thought I would do my personal profile first and that would suggest something to me, but I haven't discovered a way to do it yet. I expect there'll be a lot about books, mainly the ones I'm reading at any given time.

eg I'm currently reading T C Boyle's The Inner Circle. I first read The Tortilla Curtain and loved it, then I had a go at Drop City and hated it. Didn't finish it, though I tried really hard. It was just too fragmented - I couldn't get familiar enough with the characters to care about them, and the narrative was hard to follow and basically not that interesting. When I stopped reading, at p.140, I had no curiosity about what happened to anyone when they were left to their own devices. Obviously I'm not enough of an ageing hippy to relate.

The first-person narrator of The Inner Circle isn't particularly likeable - a bit self-absorbed, if anything - but at least I'm interested enough to wonder what's going to happen. And I am enjoying the adventure of assessing the plausibility of the character study of Dr Alfred Kinsey (yes, that Dr Kinsey), which so far is quite convincing.

So, today I've finished composting the roses in the aviary (50+ zebra finches, 6 Chinese quail, an antiquated miniature rabbit, and a duckling of uncertain breed who appeared on the neighbour's front lawn last week and is resisting all our efforts to become friends), emptying the compost bin in the process. I started to turn the middle bin (there are three of them) into the finishing off one and then the timer rang to tell me I'd finished my allotted time and I put down my spade in great relief. I'm out of condition, clearly.

Work consisted of updating the info on the website, as I do every day, answering emails, dealing with the mail I collected last Friday, put in a bag and forgot about (oops) and drafting a letter asking for a quote for some equipment I plan to apply for a grant for. It doesn't sound very exciting put like that, but I love organising things, and being in sole charge of the organisation that pays me is so much better than my previous job, where my working conditions were at the mercy of an incompetent team leader who didn't actually know what I did, and the structure of my days was determined by some underpaid minions in a call/contact centre who knew even less.

When I started to work from home people told me I would have to figure out how to resist the temptation to procrastinate by putting in a load of washing, or start dinner, or whatever. Well, hello! Isn't that the point of working from home? That you can do those things, and not have to try and fit them around someone else's schedule? So I do. Because otherwise I'd be staring at the screen all afternoon, and everyone knows that's not good for you. Ok, so I get to go out and check the post box or bank cheques and that sort of stuff, but when I was in my previous job, I didn't work non-stop. Does anybody? So this works. It's taken me nearly 4 months to figure out the best schedule for me, but it takes that long to settle into a new job anyway, doesn't it? Actually, I don't know the answer to that. I was in my other job for 26 years, right from when I left university. It's only in the last year that the working conditions changed and became impossible - before that I was reasonably happy, doing my work efficiently and effectively.

That's probably enough for one posting.