2018, the latter half

It’s been a strange kind of 6 months here at EB Towers.

Job searching (and finding and still not a start date in sight) – my savings are dwindling but I’m so glad to have left teaching behind (though I still feel a profound loss of the meaningful interactions the job provided). Interviews gave me a good reason to look back favourably on my career in education.

I’ve been obsessed with CNN and MSNBC news channels on Youtube (though I have tried several times to watch Fox News as balance and failed miserably), tracking the progress of American politics, following developments since well before the mid-terms. For some reason, I’m reminded of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” which I’m currently re-reading. My viewing proved a valuable distraction from the political mess here at home in the UK.

I also watched (avidly) the first series of National Geographic Channel’s “Mars” which was very enjoyable and informative. I hesitated to watch the second series but was glad I did as that was where some interesting issues were explored. It was satisfying seeing writers explore the kinds of ideas that Ursula K Le Guin explored so thoroughly in her thought narrative “The Dispossessed” (probably my favourite adult novel). Interesting to see how NatGeo suggested Big Business concerns (for want of a better term) and lobbyists might influence colonisation of the red planet. Again, I was reminded of “Dune”!

I’ve re-read some of my favourite books / authors – UKLG, Joan AIken, Robert Westall, Rosemary Sutcliff, Helen Griffith, David Mitchell, Philip Pullman… and Frank Herbert (“Dune”).

I jumped ship on Twitter because I was checking the feed far too regularly. An ill thought out move because it stole from me a pm channel to some people with whom I rather liked communicating. I’m not impulsive by nature but that move was! Fear (of procrastination) was the mind killer!

The Earth Balm iBook and music re-recording seems to have been placed on the back burner (or the cold corner furthest from the back burner) but I’ll return to it when I’m working again – like the maxim “If you want to get a job done, give it to somebody busy”, I think I may have to take my eye of something to keep it in focus (if you understand what I mean). There is a “Dune” connection here but I think I’ve exhausted the ‘gag’.

I’ve regained a love of listening to music (usually at bed time, on headphones and while reading) including religious choral music, ‘world’ music, electronic and (occasionally) rock.

The very good bloggers of WordPress have provided me with many texts to look forward to reading when I’m once again in receipt of salary. They know who they are and I’d name them but for fear of missing somebody. Take time to go through the ‘blogs that I follow’ tiles to enter a kingdom of riches.

As always, family provides the very best reason to get up of a morning.

Hope everybody’s 2019 will bring creativity, satisfaction, calm and prosperity. Thanks to everybody anybody who has taken the time to visit this bubble in the hypertext ether. Very special thanks to anybody who came back for a second dose or more.

Good health and happiness to all.

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Christmas Stories 1

Having just completed my reading of “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in five parts” (more about that another time, perhaps) I ventured into the garage to find something to read. Searching through my ever diminishing collection of books, I came across a book by an author I haven’t read for a good while… an author that I haven’t read since my ‘Teacher of Year 5’ days – the wonderful (late) Robert Westall.

For the most part, RW’s novels are gently humorous but he did like to decorate his prose with profanities which would make the average primary school pupil’s parent complain. I used his stories where I could and with some judicious editing. I made use of  “The Night Mare”, “Blitz”, “The Machine Gunners” and the book I am currently reading – “Christmas Spirit“. It consists of two stories – “The Christmas Ghost” and the marvellous “The Christmas Cat” which evokes such fantastic childhood Christmas memories (of the late 60s and early 70s in my case though the actual story is set in 1934) and memories of summer visitors to our street in the very early 70s. The conflict between Mrs Brindley and Caroline (the narrator of the story) is resolved in a beautifully staged and written manner – I won’t reveal what it is exactly but is it is in the form of a nativity, of sorts. My copy of the book has some wonderfully scratchy pen and ink illustrations (by John Lawrence) which, for me, enhance the story telling far more than high tech, full colour illustrations ever could.

A review at Kirkus 

I’d recommend the book as an unusual choice for Christmas-themed narrative(s).

spirit

“Outside, the cobbles of the taxi-rank were stuck all over with tiny silver scales, and the air was thick with the smell of fresh fish, frying fish, rotting fish, boiling fish and guano. Seagulls sat on every rooftop, nearly as big and arrogant as geese, and splattered the slates with their white droppings and filled the air with their raucous cries.”

Hiatus and Witch Week

I really do need to take a break from my small kernel of internet activities. I need to find a paying job for financial and health reasons. I shall return in the near future, hopefully when I’ve been successful in finding employment.

Whatever my web presence (or absence), I will be taking part in the Diana Wynne Jones inspired  ‘Witch Week‘ reading of Ursula K Le Guin‘s Earthsea novel “The Other Wind‘.

Take care everybody!

 

Puffin "Earthsea Quartet" cover. Copyright David Borgen / Puffin books.
Puffin “Earthsea Quartet” cover. Copyright David Borgen / Puffin books.

 

RIP UKLG

I’m currently knee deep in supply teaching work and trying to work on the Earth Balm Music material, learning much about the limitless possibilities of music software and my limited abilities on the piano keyboard on the way. I have a day’s break today and just as well because I feel compelled to post about the passing of the great Ursula K Le Guin. The news has finally made up my mind for me – she is my favourite author of all that I have read (and she is in some high calibre company with Rosemary Sutcliff, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Philippa Pearce etc.). Her characters are so well developed, her books explore ideas about social systems and politics so subtly and she handles big plot moments so delicately. I’m about to radically thin out my book collection and I’m keeping all of my UKLG books as I know I’ll only regret losing them if I pass them on. Please, let her be known as more than just a science fiction / fantasy author because she was so much more.

Ursula_K_Le_Guin
Photograph of author Ursula K Le Guin. Source Wikipedia, credit Gorthian.

Here is a quote from Ursula’s Wikipedia page:

Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of dimensions of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology, and psychology leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction. She objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction. Underlying ideas of anarchism and environmentalism also make repeated appearances throughout Le Guin’s work

Narrative text illustration

One of the reasons that I was an avid reader of narrative writing in my childhood was the quality of book illustration in the 1960s.  I was reminded of this recently when re-reading one of my favourite children’s anthologies: Philippa Pearce‘s “What the Neighbours Did“. The illustrator for my edition of the book is Faith Jaques and I love this work. I’d like to post a scan of one of the drawings and hope it will not offend / contravene any copyright.

Victor G Ambrus’s work has also been an inspiration and a source of enjoyment.

More recently, I have enjoyed Peter Bailey’s illustrations for Corgi Yearling‘s editions of Philip Pullman‘s children’s books and Dick de Wilde’s illustrations in Bill Naughton‘s anthology “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge“.

It is probably just nostalgia but I’m sure that the scratchiness and quality of line in these black and white illustrations have more character than modern digitally created work (Ooh! Did I really say that?).

ibook_scan048
Illustration by Victor Ambrus from “Russian Blue” book by Helen Griffiths (copyright Hutchinson Books).
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Illustration by Dick de Wilde from “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge” by Bill Naughton (copyright Puffin books).
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Illustration by Faith Jaques from “What the Neighbours Did” by Philipa Pearce (copyright Puffin books).

UKLG notes

Thanks to calmgrove, I’m seriously considering a series of pictures (and perhaps music) inspired by the writings of Ursula K Le Guin. I thought I might share some of the notes I’ve been taking from “A Wizard of Earthsea“. Apologies for the untidiness, handwriting never was my forte.

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Picture of vocabulary from “Wizard of Earthsea”. Copyright Ursula K Le Guin.

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Also, this from the UKLG website, looks fascinating (though, as always, I’m somewhat late for the party): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arwencurry/worlds-of-ursula-k-le-guin

The Left Hand of Darkness

This is it (The Left Hand of Darkness), the book I’ve been waiting to read and the book generally regarded as “Ursula Le Guin’s masterpiece” – Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels. I bought it today in Foyles, Bristol along with Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics“.  It was on the shelves at Waterstones too but I couldn’t find the Rovelli book there and wanted both. I know, I could have bought each from different stores but that would be alien to me. UKLG books are a puzzle, they seem to be either in all book shops at any given moment or in none at all in another given moment. I keep eyeing up Melvyn Peake’s “The Gormenghast Trilogy” but I’m too mean to pay the £18 cover price.

Looking forward to reading these – I may have to go to bed super-early!!

lhod

carlo rovelli