Ichabod is itchy

November 29, 2006

The old curiosity shop

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:28 pm

Have just finished this (rather long) Dickens classic. I dare say that most of you know the basic story, which follows the wanderings of little Nell and her grandfather, after they have been reduced to bankruptcy and chased out of London… But I wanted to say a little something about Mr. Quilp.

Dickens does an absolutely amazing job of creating a visual picutre of the evil dwarf, Quilp.  He is completely grotesque– torments his wife, tortures his servant and is generally horrible to everyone he meets. Near the beginning of the book, Dickens describes Quilp in a passage that made me physically wrinkle up my nose at the dwarf’s evilness. But what’s funny is that the passage isn’t one that narrates one of Quilp’s underhanded actions– it simply tells us how he eats his breakfast:

” [H]e ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon till they bent again, and in short performed so many horrifying and uncommon acts that the women were nearly frightened out of their wits, and began to doubt if he were really a human creature.”

It is paragraphs like these– so visually intense and so wonderfully effective– that make me enjoy Dickens’ work so much.

If you haven’t read it before, take the time to do so. It’s  a wonderful (and rather unpredictable) book.

November 19, 2006

Garden update

Filed under: flowers — by ichabodisitchy @ 5:40 pm

A few weeks ago, I planted some winter flowering fenland daybreak… I’ve not got the greenest fingers in the world, so imagine my delight when I went out into the garden this afternoon and found that the plants had actually grown and that some beautiful pink flowers were blooming…

It was such a thrill– can see how people get hooked on gardening

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November 15, 2006

Photo booth

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:39 pm

We’ve got a new mac desktop (early xmas present for Lewis) and have had great fun playing with it. One of the coolest ‘toys’ that it comes with is a program called ‘photo booth’– which uses the in-built camera at the top of the screen to take pictures of you. Not so interesting in itself– but the program lets you add all sorts of distortion affects. A bit like being at a funfair in front of all the crazy mirrors.

Check it out–

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November 14, 2006

Coven of one

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 9:30 pm

Another strong female lead– huzzah! I loved Kate Bousfield‘s (aka Minx) debut novel– the story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Dorcas is a young witch who dreams of joining the coven at Masterbridge, capital of the pagan North. But when she finishes her training she is sent to Pendartha– a small fishing village in the heathen South.

At first it seems she has simply been summoned to treat the aches and pains of a hard-working community. But there is more to Pendartha than meets the eye and when Dorcas hears the tales of death and misfortune that have plagued the village for the last generation, she realises she has a bigger job to do here than healing physical ills.

It is a physical and spiritual test that forces Dorcas to search her innermost soul to find out who and what she is. It is a story of good and evil, prejudice and superstition and a story about love and magic. Wonderful.

November 9, 2006

The women’s war

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:44 pm

Now this is more like it! After my disappointment at the general sappiness of Clare in The time traveller’s wife, I deliberately chose this Alexandre Dumas book because the title promised a plethora of strong female characters. And I’m happy to report it did not disappoint.

In this new translation about one of Princess de Conde’s rebel uprisings against Queen Anne of Austria and the young King Louis XIV, Dumas paints the potrait of four formidable women. Aside from the Queen and Princess (both of whom are ruthless to the extreme), we are given the royalist Nanon de Lartigues– a dark beauty fuelled by raw ambition, who will stop at nothing to accumulate wealth and power. On the other side, we are presented with a fair-headed rebel, the Vicountess de Cambes, who is ready to sacrifice all her worldly possessions–and her soul besides–to restore the Princess de Conde to her rightful place in court.

A common weakness for both Nanon and the Vicountess is the Baron de Canolles– a charming and courageous hero who finds himself torn between the two women fighting for his love. Somehow, I was not irritated by the Baron’s inconsistency (he seems to sway towards whichever lady happens to be by his side at the time)– Dumas gives him a reality that is hard to fault.

As the story unfolds, and the Princess de Conde’s rebellion moves up a gear, the three principal characters get caught up in events beyond their control. Their commitment to their cause fades as they struggle to hold on to the people they love and, in the end, they each pay a high price for their political ardour.

As with many Dumas novels, this one was inspired by historical events and, as usual, is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction. It is packed with political intrigue and has a much-appreciated message about the futility of war. This book is a real gem.

November 7, 2006

Flourishes galore

Filed under: writing — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:53 pm

Minx has been talking about handwriting— bemoaning the general loss of penmanship as an art… I mentioned that when I was at school in Brasil, we were taught to write with lots of ‘swishes and swirls’ (always using a fountain pen rather than a biro of course) and Minx requested a sample.

So here it is– hope you can make it out on the photo…

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November 5, 2006

Mail yourself out of prison…

Filed under: Uncategorized — by ichabodisitchy @ 6:04 pm

Did anyone else see this story in the Guardian this weekend? And did anyone laugh as much as I did I wonder?…

“When plucky Bosnian robber Muradif Hasanbegovic, 36, decided that prison life wasn’t for him, he didn’t pester the parole board with endless requests for clemency; he simply climbed into a parcel and mailed himself out of Karlau jail in Austria. “This sort of thing was not supposed to happen,” said the warden, Franz Hochstrasser. It is not known where Hasanbegovic, who remains at large, sent himself.”

November 4, 2006

Me, me, me meme

Filed under: life — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:24 pm

I’ve been tagged for a meme by Ian over at This Writing Life to list 5 things about myself that you may not have previously known. So here goes…

PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL PEOPLE COLLECTION POSTS
Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it.

1. I have a tattoo on my bottom (upper right side). I got it in a rather dodgy tattoo parlour in some backstreet of Prague when I had just turned 17. At the time, it was the size of a small postage stamp. Unfortunately, as I have grown older, my svelte and trim teenage buttocks have given way to a rather expansive gluteus maximus and the postage stamp has turned into a billboard poster.

2. I have a mole on the end of my nose that my friends at school used to  call ‘the fly’.

3. I spend an extraordinary amount of time worrying about death. I’m dreadfully afraid of my husband’s death. But not nearly as afraid as I am at the thought of nobody finding me when I’m dead myself. That news story a few months ago about the dead woman found in a London flat who had been dead in front of the tv for 3 years before anyone found her– is my worst nightmare.

4. I love The Archers and religiously listen to the omnibus every Sunday. The Ruth-Sam affair is driving me crazy.

5.  When I was about 7, at home playing with a friend, my younger brother (aged 5) was bugging us–as younger brothers do… I ran into my room and before I could shut the door, my brother had put his finger in the hinge. I looked at him, looked at his finger, and slammed the door. The top of his finger fell off (well, it was hanging by a thread)– mum picked it up and ran to the hospital with my brother, his finger and a lot of ice. You’ll be glad to hear they managed to sow it back on.

The time traveller’s wife

Filed under: literature — by ichabodisitchy @ 6:35 pm

Spoiler alert.

I read this book by Audrey Niffenegger last week and I must admit I was a little disappointed.

I thought the idea behind the book was quite interesting– about a man (Henry) with a genetic disorder that makes him jump around in time uncontrolledly, and his wife (Clare). Clare first meets Henry when she’s 6 (whilst he’s time travelling). Henry first meets Clare in his late twenties (in real-time). The book is essentially a love story. Clare grows up knowing a 40-odd year old Henry who knows all about her, falls in love with him and then waits to catch up with him in real time. Henry meanwhile is a bit of a mess- drinking, sleeping with lots of women etc etc. When Clare finds him, the tables are turned– she knows all about him and he slowly finds his feet and falls in love with her.

Now I’ll tell you what I found so frustrating. Poor Clare sits around her whole life waiting for Henry to appear. When she’s a kid she sits around waiting for him to turn up on one of his visits. When the visits stop she sits around waiting to find him for the first time in real time. Then she sits around waiting for all the days that Henry’s not time-travelling. Waiting, waiting, waiting. While lucky Henry is off having a laugh, seducing women — seducing Clare (I found it all a bit sordid when he goes back in his early-40s for Clare’s ‘first time’ when she’s only 17).

And then (this is the spoiler) when Henry finally dies, he leaves a letter for Clare saying that he saw her once when he was time travelling and she was an old old woman. So not enough that Clare has sat around waiting her whole life for this one man. Even after he’s dead she then sits around waiting (until she’s 82!) for that one moment when she’ll see him again.

Maybe I’m just too feminist. It just really grated.

Sell your soul– on ebay.

Filed under: life — by ichabodisitchy @ 5:49 pm

Feels like an absolute age since I had time to sit down and read anybody’s blogs, let alone write anything down. But mum and dad flew back out to Mexico yesterday, so slowly getting my feet back on the ground. And what has been happening in my world for the past 10 days?

Well, highlights would include my oldest stepson turning 14 last week. We had 10 young teenagers round to the house for a ‘sleepover’. I say sleepover, although there was very little sleeping that I could see. More like ‘pizza, crisps and videogames over’.

Another highlight– The Canterbury Tales at the Gielgud Theatre (part 2). I think the run finished this weekend, so bad luck if you missed it– it was great. Very amusing and incredibly ‘bawdy’– everything we’d hoped for. Although not quite what Dylan (the recently turned 14 year old) had been expecting though. His eyes widened a little when the curtains went up to reveal a man baring his bottom to the audience. But it wasn’t until the summoner’s tale– when he’s describing how all friars live up Satan’s arse and get farted out at regular intervals– that Dyl turned round and said ‘it’s not exactly like chitty chitty bang bang is it?’

But top highlight of the week was when Harry (aged 10) came home and told us with great delight that you can sell your soul on e-bay. And– you can get £20 for it! That’s a lot of money to a 10-year old and he’s seriously considering it. After all, he said, if he feels he can’t live without it, he can always buy one back later!

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