Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Someone fastidiously locks the front and back doors every night. I know it's one of children and I've always wondered who -
Tonight I found out.
Beatrice who's 6 was eating her bedtime Weetbix. She said: "Is Millie (our dog) in or out?"
"She's out," says I. "Why?"
"Please will you call her in, Mummy? I want to lock the doors."
So I call Millie in and say nothing. And allow Beatrice to lock the front and back doors.
Then she says: "Is Madeleine still lost Mummy?"
The poor little mouse has been locking our doors, front and back every night, because she's afraid she might get stolen like Madeleine

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Management

I am a stay-at-home mum.
From 8 to 2 when the kids are at school I ride, I write and I cook while Saba does the housework. In the afternoons we do homework. Then I take at least one child to a sporting activity while Saba looks after the others.
They are in bed sleeping by eight.
I polish shoes, make schoollunches, pack schoolbags and tidy the house.
I am in bed sleeping by nine.
I'd love to sit up and chat to my husband (who's working in Saudi so we'd be chatting by phone) but I can't seem to stay awake - his voice sends me over to sleep. I'd love to drink wine and watch television but if I do I fall asleep dribbling. I'd love to laze in the bath but if I do I fall asleep drowning. I'd love to sit in bed reading but always - with no offence to the novel - I fall asleep after a couple of pages.
What am I doing wrong? Why am I always so tired? For goodness sake, I don't even work!!
I'm starting to think I've missed a page in the time management manual of life, that explains how to relax without dozing off. Does anyone have a spare copy they can lend me?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Infinites

John Banville
It is always said success breeds more enemies than friends but even I was taken aback by the acerbic reviews John Banville received in some highbrow broadsheet newspapers on the release of his novel The Infinities.
Could it really be as ‘pretentious and pompous’ as some of his critics were suggesting? Or as ‘oppressively overwrought?’ Or even ‘overinflated’?
There’s no such thing as bad publicity. I rushed out to buy The Infinities and devoured it in a couple of sittings. And in my humble opinion, this novel is a hoot. It is filthy, bawdy and rollicking. It’s even shocking if, like me, you were reared to believe that sex and toileting are private and personal activities, and not up for discussion at the dinner table.
The Infinites is narrated partly by Old Adam Godley who lies serene, detached and dying in the Sky Room at the top of his house with his family gathered beneath him. His life is passing before him; we are treated to snatches of memory; ‘so much he has forgotten because it meant nothing at the time... it is this that torments him now... the thought of all that he had and did not prize as he should have when he had it.’
Patiently waiting is Hermes, the god who in Greek mythology was appointed to be the Psychopomp, the guide who escorted the souls of the dead to their new home in the Underworld. Solemn duties aside, Hermes is a likeable rogue. While he waits for Old Adam to die he assumes the shape of Duffy a cowman to assist in the wooing of the unlovely Ivy. He stops time for an hour so randy Zeus can assume the shape of Young Adam and ravish Young Adam’s beautiful wife. And he immediately recognises bad boy Pan when he turns up on the doorstep, uninvited, having assumed the shape of a fat little man with goat like feet, and claims to be an old friend of Old Adam.
I’d go so far as to say John Banville had some fun with this novel for like the gods of Ancient Greece, he has permitted himself a god-like ability to mischievously interfere with the natural order of things. So The Infinites is set in a parallel universe, where cars run on brine, Sweden is war-like, and Elizabeth 1 was beheaded.
And as for the acerbic reviews and the accusations of pretentiousness and pomposity? Well, I did my professional best to identify an ‘oppressively overwrought’ passage, but instead I found the writing to be only gorgeous; there’s hardly a boring sentence; it’s as close to poetry as most prose writers get. I have come to the conclusion that a sharp-tongued book review says more about the reviewer than the novel.
John Banville was born in Wexford in 1945. He was educated by the Christian Brothers but did not go university. He’s quoted as saying, “A great mistake. I should have gone. I regret not taking that four years of getting drunk and falling in love. But I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to be free.” He worked for Aer Lingus and travelled widely. He met his wife in San Francisco in 1968; she says when he’s writing he’s like “a murderer who has just come back from a particularly bloody killing.” In addition to literary fiction he also writes thrillers under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.
VERDICT: Barking mad. I loved it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Photo Meme

My friend Kate has tagged me, the instructions are:
1. Open the first (oldest) photo folder in your computer library
2. Scroll to the 10th photo
3. Post the photo and the story behind it
4. Tag 5 or more people to continue the thread.
This photo was taken on 24 August 2003. Beatrice was four months old; Maud was nearly four. We had been living in Botswana for four years but were soon to leave, for a UK posting, and Nick was given a digital camera as a leaving present. This is the first photo he took with it.
Can I ask the following to do the same?
1. Claire at Diary of a Mad Mammy
2. Sharon Owens the famous Irish novelist
3. Alison at amidesigns
4. Nick at Fat Builder
5. Debs she writes books and stuff

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Handful of Dust

Evelyn Waugh
I was invited to speak to the American Woman’s Association Book Club. We met in the Chairwoman’s house, and I read to them from one of my novels. They laughed at all the right places and sighed a bit at the sad part then the floor was opened for questions. It was all the old familiars: Do you write every day? Are you a millionaire? Have your books been made into movies? (By the way, the answers are “No”)
Then one lady asked: “What is your favourite novel?”
I was taken aback - is it possible to have only one favourite novel? I can think off-hand of at least a dozen which I reread for pleasure and comfort; I carry them with me when I travel; I think of them as old friends...
I chose one at random. I said: “A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh.”
Afterwards at the potluck supper, while I was tucking into pavlova and cream, the aforementioned lady cornered me. “Why A Handful of Dust?”
That’s easy; because it’s a masterpiece. It is witty and it is sad. It has marvellous, imaginative twists and a harrowing conclusion of Gothic proportion.
A Handful of Dust is the story of an unsuccessful marriage. For seven years dull Tony Last and the dazzling Brenda have been buried away at Hetton Abbey, playing happy families with their son John Andrew. Tony is very content; he adores being Lord of the Manor. But Brenda is bored to sobs and so desperate for a bit of excitement she throws herself at John Beaver, an unscrupulous cad and social climber who invites himself to Hetton for the weekend. Stupid, bored Brenda thinks it’s a lark to instigate a flirtation with Mr. Beaver; she buys a flat in London from Mr. Beaver’s mother then tells trusting Tony she’s regularly visiting London to take a course in economics.
So far, so shallow, until Brenda decides she’s in love with Mr. Beaver and must have a divorce from Tony. But since this is the 1930s, divorce is difficult to obtain. Ever the gentleman Tony agrees to pretend he’s the guilty party; he heads to Brighton with a professional dancer and her eight year old daughter, to a seedy hotel renowned for illicit liaisons, with two private detectives in tow...
It is only when Brenda and Beaver get greedy, and insist Tony sells Hetton Abbey to fund inflated alimony payments that the worm turns with alarming and astonishing consequences....
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in 1903. He was educated at Hertford College, Oxford where he mixed with and closely observed the British upper classes. (Asked if he had competed in any sport for his college, Waugh famously replied “I drank for Hertford.”)
A Handful of Dust was first published in 1934. It is included in the Modern Library List of Best 20th Century Novels and was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English language novels from 1923 to present. The title is an allusion to TS Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land:
I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
VERDICT: Show me the person who cannot read of the death of John Andrew and his father’s heartbreak without crying and I’ll show you an insensitive brute.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The Revenge of Lady Muck has gone on sale and for the past couple of days I've been indulging in a harmless fantasy - common to novelists the world over...
Should Lady Muck be made into a movie, who will I cast in the leading roles? Who will play Lord Rupert Glass - aristocratic and dapper, but with a dark side - step forward Rupert Friend, I think you were made for the part.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I was flicking through the newpaper this morning and my eye was caught by: Jordan Pins hopes on Hurt Locker Sweeping the Oscars
Jordan makes no secret of which movie it wants to see sweep this year's Oscars...
How very rude, I thought, to reduce Jordan to the third person singular. Is it not obvious Jordan is female? How much more obvious can it be?
For almost a minute I raged, until I noticed the article was in the Middle East section, squashed in between 'Mabarak's Surgery Succussful' and 'Dubai Shopkeepers Turn to Charms of Lemons and Chillies for Good Luck'.