Saturday, December 30, 2006

Victory for reason?

On the subject of Saddam Hussein's hanging...

From the Scotsman:

"Hamid Alkifaey, a former Iraqi politician, said: "It is a victory for justice, it is a victory for ordinary Iraqi people over tyranny, it is a victory for reason and it is a day of joy for all human beings."
US President George Bush said: "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself."
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the statement from Mrs Beckett spoke for the whole government, including the Prime Minister.
Mrs Beckett said: "I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account."
She added that the Government "does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else" but added that "we respect the decision" of Iraqi authorities.
However, a statement from the Vatican today said the execution was a "tragic event like all capital punishments" and risked fomenting a spirit of vendetta and sowing new violence in Iraq."

Colour me surprised, but I find myself agreeing with the Vatican on this. I feel sad that killing anyone, no matter how despicable, is a source of celebration to some people.

And I have no idea how it can be seriously described as a "victory for reason".

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

These are not the toys you are looking for...

A Mr PotatoHead Star Wars Clone warrior, a present for milord T.

He pronounced it "Scary!" and ran away after he pulled off the wrapping paper. He got lots of other things he really liked, and I expect he'll grow to love it? I can see his point: those big bulgy eyes under the clone mask and the clenched fist.

The other arm's a bit camp. :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cwismas time mistletoooe and woine

We're pretty much ready for Christmas, I think. Most of the presents are wrapped and stuffed haphazardly under the tree, M is out doing the food shopping as I blog and I'm to go pick up my granny later this afternoon.

The Guardian has an interesting article about a poll today. It's based on phone survey of 1,006 people (A peculiar number. Why not stop at 1,000 to make the maths easier? :D. I would!) and we all know to be sceptical about statistics, I hope.

Curiously, they found that non-believers outnumber believers two to one in the UK. This surprised me.

"Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% of those questioned describing themselves as "a religious person". A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian.
Older people and women are the most likely to believe in a god, with 37% of women saying they are religious, compared with 29% of men


But a spokesman for the Church of England denied yesterday that mainstream religion was the source of tension. He also insisted that the "impression of secularism in this country is overrated".
"You also have to bear in mind how society has changed. It is more difficult to go to church now than it was. Communities are displaced, people work longer hours - it's harder to fit it in. It doesn't alter the fact that the Church of England will get 1 million people in church every Sunday, which is larger than any other gathering in the country."
The Right Rev Bishop Dunn, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, added: "The perception that faith is a cause of division can often be because faith is misused for other uses and other agendas.""

I do find it peculiar that only 54% of the people interviewed who said they were Christian are intending to attend a service. But maybe they're more of the puritan bent :P. (Oh, it struck me yesterday that I'd forgotten to bring up Mithras in that post, but since his myth was swallowed up or lost, it's perhaps not that relevant). No, seriously, it's because half the people who described themselves as Christian also described themselves as non-religious, so must have started off mis-labelling themselves. I suppose it's still a cultural norm.


Oddly I am attending a church service tomorrow. If they'd interviewed me, it would have confused them. :D We're going to a children's service. It does feel more Christmassy if you go to something like that, I think. It's probably my upbringing creeping out. We used to attend church every Sunday (and of course at Christmas) in my formative years.

I am a mass of contradictions sometimes :D: angsting over religion in schools at some points and then taking my kids to a service :D. I think it's a matter of control and presentation. I know how I will answer questions, I'm not too sure about teachers... But don't worry, I'm not telling S it's all rubbish or anything like that, I simply add in the "some people believe" parts.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

On a cold and frosty morning

The children found a new use for the changing mat and sledged down the icy, frosted grass in the garden, which was inventive and great fun.

I had a couple of turns myself. :D

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The trouble with atheists

I watched a bit of the programme The Trouble with Atheists last night, presented by journalist Rod Liddle. M wanted to watch the DVD of the Da Vinci Code he'd rented so we switched off about half-way through. I think it was meant as a challenge/answer to the Dawkins' programmes they'd had on a few months ago. Oh, it made me giggle and growl in equal amounts.

His argument seemed to be that atheists are creating a new religion out of science really, which is an old saw (oh, and the arrogance thing :)). And he continued in this vein, declaring we have high priests and elders in Dawkins and his cohorts. He also found Darwin Bedford, a slightly cuckoo fellow by the look of it, who claims to be the atheist Messiah. From what was shown of him, he stands outside churches with placards saying god doesn't exist and handing out leaflets. This is on the same level of silly and annoying as the old religious placard lady in a town I once lived in, declaring those who died in the Tsunami basically deserved it.

I couldn't bear to watch the Da Vinci Code, having loathed the book, so read instead. From what I drew from it, the film seemed to move quite slowly and dully. Which is odd, since it seemed written with a film in mind, (although a predictable and cliché-ridden one). I had thought it would translate better than it seemed to, however, I didn't watch it properly so probably shouldn't have an opinion on it. :D

I read Julian Clary's autobiography A Young Man's Passage. I don't usually read biographies, but I'd been looking in the history section for something on Cromwell, and when I couldn't find anything, Clary's biography was the obvious alternative :o :P! Clearly. How could it be otherwise? A whim, indeed, but it was quite interesting and somewhat as you'd expect of the Joan Collins Fan Club, and somewhat more. His boyfriend Christopher and another friend died of AIDS, and his care of his partner showed him in a very different light.

Monday, December 18, 2006

School do do

I'm developing a real hatred of school events, and I'm not entirely sure why. (Or am I? Let's explore that. :D)

Well, part of it is how many people are there. Too many.

And they all arrive ages beforehand so if you want a seat, you have to be incredibly early and therefore are bored silly by the time anything starts happening.

Today I was going to take my camera, but I didn't bother in the end, as without zoom I'd only get specks in the distance, again. I had debated too long whether to take T with me or not, you see, to get there early enough. I took him as I thought he'd enjoy the singing and when you're accompanied by a small child, you have an excuse to be antisocial, as you're too busy watching your toddler to engage in long conversations. I had been worried that he might try to tear up the aisle and join his sister, but we couldn't actually see her at all, so no danger there. And I'd brought cars. He was very good throughout, only letting out a couple of joyous squeals and a couple of bashes with the cars against pew.

The songs the children sang were not your usual carols, but Christmassy songs that none of us knew, really. We did have songsheets, but none of the parents joined in, we just watched and admired the children.

I do like the vicar a lot: she's very good with youngsters and gave a nice child-friendly sermon. It wasn't particularly me-friendly, but then being in church at all isn't my idea of a good time. I can't really expect a service with no mention of god. :D Overall, it just washed over me, and I found the way she made it accessible to the children with a huge soft toy sheep and a star that lit up, very well done. She told the story of the shepherds who went to see the baby Jesus, and there was quite an amusing bit where she said they had been washing their socks, picking up on the "naughty" amended version of the carol, which made the children laugh. I was slightly flummoxed by a bit where she said one of the smelly (her word!) shepherds wanted a souvenir (well, that's not the right word, a keepsake, rather) and took a bit of wood from the manger in the shape of you know what, and Mary looked terribly sad. I suppose it was to try to lead back to the crucifixion and what that is supposed to symbolise. It seemed a bit unBiblical to me, but as ever, I could be wrong. I don't suppose it matters if it was poetic licence as such. It just grated on me a bit. But the service wasn't meant to please stray atheists. :D

It does strike me as immensely wrong-headed, the impression that some Christians seem to have that their religion isn't promoted in school any more, which I have seen expressed in the media and on-line. From my perspective, Christianity is definitely better represented than other religious beliefs, even though my child's school is not a faith or church school. The children might know a bit about other religions, but nothing on the scale of what they know about Christianity, (unless they are from a different religious background). I suppose it's only to be expected, given the country's history and culture. But I'd prefer it was taught as "some people believe".

I could take S out of those sorts of activities/lessons, but I don't think she'd thank me for missing performances like today or for making her stand out in school.

Anyway, I'm going a long way astray from my starting point.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The power of ten

This is fabulous - a trip through 10 million light years away, right up to quarks.

And the Simpsons version. :D

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Banning Christmas

What with various rags bare-facedly lying about how Christmas is being taken away from Christians, (boo-hoo, rend our shirts and rant red-facedly), it made me think about something I dimly recalled from history lessons.

This being, Oliver Cromwell's rule where Christmas and various other holidays were really banned.

Now old Olly was a Puritan, and those boys didn't agree with the celebration of Christmas.

It held unwelcome links with Roman Catholicism, (Christ's Mass) and with Paganism. A lot of traditions surrounding Christmas even now, predate Christianity and have their roots or equivalents in paganism. Ivy was a symbol of Bacchus, while mistletoe is believed by pagans to protect against lightning, bring good luck, cure disease and grant fertility. Holly has similar pagan connections. The winter solstice was a good time for festivals: Saturnalia was a Roman tradition, involving (as one would expect of the Romans, their reputation being what it is) a certain amount of excess :D. It went on about a week, although various emperors tried to shorten it. And there was Yule, a northern European pagan festival, which involved feasting and the sacrifice of a pig to Frey, (from which we acquire the traditional Christmas ham).

It seems fair to say that the Puritans wouldn't have thought much to Pope Gregory's advice to Abbot Mellitus (in round about 600 CE, when he was coming over to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity), which was to allow them some leeway with their festivals so not to drive them away from conversion. (This link takes you a site giving the contents of the letter, as preserved by the Venerable Bede.)

The Puritans wanted a day of fasting and reflection rather than the rip-roaring hoo-ha that surrounded Christmas. They wanted rid of all holy days whilst Sundays were to be strictly observed. They even passed legislation to this effect in 1645.

Of course, they didn't succeed altogether in getting people to stop celebrating, but they did make it dangerous.

Cromwell is an interesting figure: I must read more about him. What day is it today? ... Oh, library's shut today.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Party time.

S's party went very well. It was like a military operation: the magician had sent an itinary and schedule, as well as name stickers, invitations and the like. I was also in good form, having planned things better and thought through everything better than I managed last year.

I took charge of buying the party food, as I hadn't really approved of M's choices the previous year: too many sweeties = hyper kiddies on suger highs, as if the excitement of a party isn't enough. So the only sweets there were on my watch, were lollies in the party bags. :D Not that there wasn't sugary stuff available, in the shape of jam tarts, butterfly buns and kitkats, but there was more savoury things, and even fruit(!) available. We got everything prepared in good time and arrived at the hall to set up on schedule, for once. :D

It had been a bit of a disaster last year, really, as the children weren't that well - but I couldn't cancel the party since I didn't have everyone's numbers. We didn't have an entertainer either, and miscalculated just how well party games would keep the children involved, (or would fail to, rather). Still, the children remembered it, so it must have been fun. It was just an absolute stress-fest for us adults. :D And the party bags ran out because a couple of siblings who came with the parents to pick up the children took bags too. Argh! I shudder at the memory.

I think the numbers this year were better too, as we ended up with 14 instead of the 20-odd previously. It's a learning curve, this children's event organising. By the time T starts having parties, we'll have it right, I reckon.

Anyway S loved it, and T had a whale of a time as well, and some of the children were lovely with him, helping him join in the games and dancing with him. Last year, he'd cried and clung most of the time, as he wasn't too well and was only diddy.

It probably cost slightly more doing it this way, but I don't think it was that much different in the end, as we over-bought and had to provide prizes as well last year, whereas this year the magician provided those. And the reduction in stress was incalculable! :D

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Poems that mean something to me

A Christmas Carol

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty winds made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

(Excerpt - Christina Rossetti)



Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
you tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; You understand
it will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
for if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

(Christina Rossetti)


Foweles in the frith,
The fisses in the flod
And I mon waxe wod:
Mulch sorw I walke with
For beste of bon and blod.

(Medieval Poem)


Take mee to you, imprison mee,
For I, except you enthrall mee,
Never shall be free, nor ever chast,
Except you ravish mee.

(Excerpt from John Donne's Batter my Heart)


Not waving but drowning

No-one heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much farther out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

(Stevie Smith)


You should be made of Rubber

You're always moving stuff around
It wakes me up, it gets me down
Why must you be so bloody loud ?
You should be made of rubber.

You wake me up at 8am
You're gone by 9, but it's too late then
I can't get to sleep again
You should be made of rubber.

You should be made of rubber
Cos it's bouncy and it's quiet
So if you ever see a rubber body
You should buy it
You're loud and brash, you bang and crash
You really can't deny it.
(Don't worry 'bout the colour
You can take it home & dye it)

You drag your gear along the hall
It seems to bounce off every wall
I just can't get to sleep at all
You should be made of rubber.

You frogmarch up and down the stairs
As if you haven't got a care
Please don't sit down, you'll break the chair
You should be made of rubber.

I always know it must be you
I've seen the floorboards coming thru
The ceiling as they often do
You should be made of rubber.

One day this house will all fall down...
And it'll be your fault !
You shouldn't be so fucking loud
You should be made of rubber.

(Vis the Spoon)

It's time to party like it's 1999.

It's a bit of a social whirl this weekend. At least for the young uns.

Today we had the local children's Christmas party, to which I took S, T and her friend M. It was a good party, with a clown doing magic (and fortunately failing to terrify any children). Then a break for party nosh, followed by games, singing and Santa.

M and S were great and joined in with everything while behaving as behoves well-behaved children :D. T was a pleasure as well: he was trying to boogie down and do all the older children did. He loved the whole thing, sat enthralled for most of the magic show, ate his food at the table, no tantrums, no tears, no nuisance-making of any kind. It was most relaxing.

He found a shadow, a slightly older toddler who pursued him everywhere and seemed absolutely fascinated by him, (to the consternation of T, myself and his parents at times). He wasn't always content to follow him around, if T stopped moving, he would push him with his stomach and sometimes lean right into his face and bellow some sort of toddlerese, (either meant as encouragement or some deadly insult, who can tell?) Once he managed to stand on T's trousers, trip him up and then fall on top of him. I don't think his mother had a very relaxing time, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her, as her boy was everywhere at once, she couldn't take her eyes off him for a second, and obviously he was hounding T some of the time as well.

She was probably worried I'd get the arse about it. But T is quite used to bigger children chasing him and accidentally trampling him underfoot. :D

Tomorrow we have an early birthday party for S. I must ice some buns and fill some party bags in a minute.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


A tornado struck an area in North London! What freaky weather.

It's like a scene from a movie where a super-villain is using his weather-machine for nefarious ends, demonstrating his abilities so he can blackmail the government. :D

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pricks and sticks

One of M's employees was stabbed with a needle by someone last night.

M is remarkably insouciant about this. I was quite shocked by how blasé he seemed, but it seems it is par for the course. He tells me he's been threatened with needles on numerous occasions.

I didn't realise; I guess he didn't want me worrying.

The poor guy will have to have an AIDS test, but I suppose the risk is relatively small. Apparently needles are popular with criminals because they're small and easily concealed, while carrying quite a potent threat. If the culprit is caught and charged, M says it probably will only be ABH since the actual injury is minor. But it seems quite wrong, because it's such a nasty threat and consequence. :(

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Last night we watched Superman Returns. It was an enjoyable movie. M thought it was alright, not enough action, while I thought it was pretty good. I'm not sure about Brandon Routh as Superman, for he has rather burly eyebrows. (Burly seems a good word for it :D)

Following astronomers' discovery of the remains of Krypton, Superman vanished to go and see what was left there. Five years later he returns, and this is where the narrative of the film begins. In his absence, Lois Lane has started living with someone and has a young son. She also won a Pulitzer for her article on why the world doesn't need a superhero. (Not that she's at all bitter! :D)

The easy thing to do, would to have made James Marsden's character (as her fiancé) an unpleasant person, but he is a thoroughly good egg: brave, loyal, kind, loving, strong etc etc. This makes the triangle more interesting and Superman's pursuit of Lois more complex and even morally dubious. I was quite engaged by the love sub-plot, (which often seem tacked on in these types of movie), so it was effectively done. Spoiler: I was also pleased by the outcome at the end of the film, because I feared the fiancé would be killed off in a typical Hollywood cop-out...

There were quite a few nods to the Christopher Reeve films and previous incarnations of Superman, and even to the classic lines "It's a bird, it's a plane..." :D

Monday, December 04, 2006

Reading: Cloud Atlas

On the back of my copy, AS Byatt is quoted as saying "David Mitchell entices his readers onto a rollercoaster, and at first they wonder if they want to get off. Then - at least in my case - they can't bear the journey to end." This seems to sum up my reaction to this novel very well too.

I found it quite hard to give this book the time it deserved: it's been on my "to-read" pile for absolutely ages and although I've started it before, I've never kept going with it. But on an impulse, I took it with me on my long train journey at the weekend and got going. It's an interwoven tale where six narratives connect and split. It covers different time periods, from one set in the 19th century to the present to the distant future. It's told in halves, sometimes cut mid-flow, and then starting a new narrative. This is quite a jerk, and to begin with I found it annoying. Then I started wondering how each story would be concluded and whether it would have that satisfaction of resolution or whether we would be left hanging. It was done very effectively.

The author was playing with ideas about power and corruption, slavery and rebellion, and identity. Each of the characters share a birthmark, so whether they are the same person reincarnated or whether descendants, or whether marked by destiny, is a matter of speculation. Muitchell also toys with notions of story-telling: who is narrating, who is the audience, whether the narratives are written as real-life accounts or entirely fictionalised. For example, the tattered journal of Adam Ewing is read by Frobisher, whose letters are read by Luisa Rey, who is a character in a political thriller and so on. An element of doubt about the reality of events is inserted by Frobisher's skepticism about the authenticity of language used in the journal, while the fact that Luisa Rey becomes a character in a novel read by another protagonist works similarly.

The s-f parts of the book were interesting: one set in a technologically advanced dystopia, the other a post-apocalyptic landscape. The latter was somewhat reminiscent of A Canticle For Leibowitz.

I really enjoyed this novel and I'm glad I finally read it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm free! [/Mr Humphries]

The obligatory bear shot, since I was adopting a touristy attitude.

And I guess I am a tourist in London, my student days in the capital quite sometime behind me. But it was strange and evocative of that time being back there on my own (with the children safe at home with M). It feels really odd being without the children: I don't need to point out the pretty Christmas lights and I'm not constantly looking around to see where they are. I can even hold a conversation without interruption, although that had me floundering at times: coherent sentences? What are they? I used to make the trip up to college to London Paddington on a regular basis, and it felt different yet oddly the same, being back there now I'm older.

The trip was very pleasant: I did a few code-breakers to begin with, then started to read Cloud Atlas. I'm so glad I finally gave this book a chance. I managed to get half-way through before arrival.

My friend and her family were waiting to meet me, which was very nice, and the children had grown so much... I feel like an agéd aunt saying that. (That's what kids do - they grow! You stupid woman). They were a lot bigger but still cute as anything.

Later on A & I met up with R, which was great. We went for a meal and then onto the cinema to watch the new Bond, Daniel Craig, do his stuff in Casino Royale.

Our greater-spotted waiter seemed unable to retain more than one word in his head, poor creature. First I made a mistake by thinking one of the dishes was a starter, so that confused him... and me. He scrubbed things out on his pad and perhaps that was why, when our meals arrived, our shared starter was a no-show. It arrived afterwards in the hands of a lesser-spotted waiter, who also obtained the wine we had ordered. But otherwise the food was fine (apart from R's cold chips!). The lesser-spotted waiter put the blame for the mistakes on the greater-spotted, but when the latter came back to us, he passed the buck to the kitchen. I'd prefer someone just said "Oh whoops, I did a boo-boo" and accepted some responsibility.

As seems the rule (at restaurants I go to anyway), actually getting a dessert/liqueur coffee and the bill takes forever. I asked but thrice for the bill, and ended up seeking the greater-spotted waiter at the counter in order to pay. It had become a matter of urgency since our film was due to start. They seemed most reluctant to take our money and I could feel a burning temptation to simply walk out.

At least the company was good! It was so nice to see R & A.

As we were late into the cinema, there were hardly any seats and no three seats together. So that was a shame, and R volunteered to sit alone, which was noble of her. She ended up sitting just in front of us, and it was all a bit awkward, not being able to interact. We also had some adolescent lads sitting beside us, who seemed to be conducting a conversation pretty much throughout, which made me want a nail-gun... but the film was good fun. :D

I think Daniel Craig makes a good 007 and the movie seemed truer to the Ian Fleming books than other Bond films are usually. I remember reading my Granddad's Bond novels reasonably well, (although it's been a long time), and the character is quite dark and verging on the socio/psychopathic. I don't find Craig particularly attractive but he was a good turn as Bond and certainly beats Roger Moore, Lazenby and Dalton into the dust. I will always have an affection for Sean Connery, and consider him the best Bond, cos I think it may be a legal requirement...

I'm not sure who the runner up is between Craig and Brosnan. On the whole, I think I may plump for Craig.

I found the poker scenes quite lengthy and found one of the characters explaining the pot to Vesper somewhat patronising. As an accountant type thing, her character would surely be able to work out how much money was riding on the cards, even if she wasn't knowledgeable about poker. Spoiler: I also wondered why she decided to give up and basically commit suicide when had she helped him, he could have freed her sooner. I thought she deliberately jammed the door and moved back from Bond. That was the way I thought it went, but A didn't pick up on it, so maybe it was a mistake on my part. I should ask R for her take on it. The torture scene was quite wince-worthy, but I suspect men might wince more and harder. :D

Afterwards, we considered going for a drink but the streets were quite busy, mad and alarming with drunken fools and on-alert police. We saw a woman being arrested and her (10 year old ish?) daughter trying to pull a policeman away from her mum and crying her eyes out. I felt awful for the girl and hugely angry & judgemental about the woman, (despite knowing nothing of what had happened). It was so rowdy around there, that I think we all thought better of it, although it would have been nice to discuss the film and chat some more. But I was quite quailing at the thought of the press at the bar, etc. ("Saturday night's alright for fighting, get a little action in.") I must be getting old. We went our separate ways, A & I heading back to hers and R going home.

A showed me her nearly-finished novel and let me start reading it. I kept on reading until it was lights out, and when I woke in the morning, wanted to keep reading. So that's got to be a good sign. :D (I'm good at understating).

I woke pretty early - well, half-sixish - so my children have really got me well-trained. I'm going to be an early riser for the rest of my life, I bet. After all those somnabulent years of lazing in my pit 'til midday.

Ah well, at least I shall be revenged. In their teens I shall burst into their rooms, throw open their curtains to inform them loudly and enthusiastically that they're missing the best part of the day! I already do that to M sometimes. :D Mwhahahaha.

I had a really good time being relatively free for 24 hours, although I kept thinking there was something missing. Not enough nappies or chasing or mum-mum-mum-mum-mum. And I particularly enjoyed the idea of M taking on my role without respite from my parents, since they are away still. Mwhahahaha, again. Not but what he's a good dad and husband, but it's just nice for him to see that my life isn't all sitting on the PC blogging rubbish. :D

The journey home had a few annoyances. The platform number wasn't given until 5 minutes before we were due to leave. Other trains had platform notices for ages, but ours?! Oh no. :D So it was a case of a flood of people trying to race each other.

I got onto the train in carriage E as my ticket said 21a E or something like that. But that seat was unreserved. I sat in it anyway, since it had no bit of paper sticking out of it. A perfectionist lady was trying to find the exact seat on her ticket, but although she had found the seat numbered on her ticket, the piece of paper stuck out of it said something different to the actual one imprinted on the seat itself. This caused her a great deal of consternation, and she stood in the aisle debating the wisdom of seeking out a piece of paper with her details on it, or whether to sit on that seat. She blocked the gangway for ages while she considered her options. About ten people were the victims of her indecision.

Once the train started, I changed carriages, seeking a forward facing seat so I could read. I settled in another carriage, that had lots of space and started on my lovely book again.

As we chugged along an announcement was made to the effect that the steward had walked down the train and seen many a bag taking up a seat. Dire warnings were issued, where he told us that the next station was expected to be filling our train and that when he walked down again, he would charge anyone with a bag on a seat for an additional single fare! I took heed, but unnecessarily, since hardly anyone actually got on at the next station.

I understand why it would be bothersome to staff, that people take up seats unreasonably, when there are perfectly good luggage racks. I just felt most naughty and wrist-slapped by the way he talked. As I suppose I should, being a heinous bag-on-seat-erer. :D

A pair of young women were sitting behind me, and talking loudly in strong regional accents, which made me feel at home. But one of them had a dreadful cough, reminiscent of the character from the Fast Show who cannot get through a sentence without spluttering, hacking and coughing himself into choking. At first I felt sorry for her, but after a couple of hours I wished for my nail-gun again. Or a jar of honey to ram down her throat!

M and the children were waiting for me, and that was lovely - the children virtually rugby-tackled me and seemed so pleased to see me. S had made me a card telling me how much she missed me. Aww.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Reading: Acid Row

This is the second Minette Walters' novel I've read and I enjoyed it more than the Shape of Snakes. I was totally sucked into the atmosphere and world of the novel, and grew to fear what would happen to some of the characters.

It is set in a run-down estate, which riots when the inhabitants discover a sex offender is living amongst them and a young girl in the town goes missing. It's an interesting look at the "moral panic" and hysteria such knowledge creates.

The offender himself is an ephebophile and poses little risk to young children: his victims were lads just below age of consent, who were actually willing participants, (although the law does not recognise that). I think this was an interesting choice for Walters'. To have a stereotypical paedophile - it would make the character completely unsympathetic, and it would be harder to blur the good vs evil aspect of the story. But it also feels a little like taking the easier route... Hmm. But I guess her point is that it isn't back and white and the label covers a whole range of offences.

I enjoyed this book and it raised some interesting questions.