I’ve just come back from a holiday in France. We stayed with friends in Paris and then (after an almost divorce inducing navigation of the Périphérique Paris ring road) journeyed on down to a tiny countryside village called Thuringy. There we helped another friend in their annual wood-chopping, a process that involves chainsawing previously felled branches and stacking the wood which will fuel their fire the following winter. In return we are treated to amazing home-cooked food and eye-watering home-brewed ‘Eau de vie’! It’s a weekend of fresh countryside air in idyllic surroundings (ignoring the constant whir of a chainsaw) and creating the most precise stack of wood that is never more than a meticulous one metre high and one metre wide. It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship because while they thank us profusely for our hard work when we leave, we’re thanking them profusely for the food, silent (flight-path-free) nights, lethal alcohol and digital detox (more of this in The Summerhouse by the Sea which, incidentally, you can pre-order now!) There’s also nothing like the incessant drone of a chainsaw (them) and the lifting and stacking of hundreds of pieces of wood (us) to leave the brain free to plot the next book, so now I’m back it’s straight to work. But I just thought as I’m a HUGE fan of nosing at other people’s holiday photos, you might want to have a nose at mine. If not, look away now…
At Maria Semple’s TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT – sitcom witty in a book. And at Jim Gaffigan on Netflix. I like that he collaborates with his wife.
To break old habits and start new. Firstly to read more and check social media less. Every time I go for my phone I have to go to my book instead. I’ve never read more in my life! Currently reading THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR by Jennifer Ryan. Just read the haunting, addictive THE SILENT FOUNTAIN by the brilliant Victoria Fox.
The best way to start a new habit, apparently, is to attach it to an old one. So now a Tuesday nursery drop-off is followed by a jog. So far, so successful. Except when it’s raining, and also except this week when I was home alone and completely exhausted! (So not quite worthy of the title ‘habit’ just yet.)
Not me but Keith Brymer Jones – I’m loving the new series of The Great Pottery Throw Down and, as always, the tears of ceramic joy.
I have been sobbing quite regularly however to the Desert Island Discs podcast which I am listening to religiously. Emma Bridgewater made me have to pull over in a car park because I couldn’t stop crying. This week Nicole Farhi, June Brown and Ali Smith have made my car and train journeys much more interesting.
Daffodils! And lots of birthday presents. Everyone seems to have been born around now! But I sneaked in a spotty t-shirt from & Other Stories for me.
For houses. It’s a nightmare. One house that I’ve coveted for years came on the market for 24 hours then the owners changed their minds about selling. I’m plucking up the courage for a Kirsty and Phil-esque note through the letter box.
The New York Times
ABSTRACT on Netflix. Whoop whoop!
My head down too much. When I look up I realise it’s March and Spring. From now on I will make a habit of looking up more (and just hope it’s more successful than the jogging.)
The first part of this year has involved a lot of reading and film watching! The desire for escapism is at its peak at the moment.
So here are my highlights…
LIE WITH ME – Sabine Durrant.
Brilliant. Addictive. Clever and witty and sharp, like I was watching in real life. Not a word on the page wasted.
THE ESSEX SERPENT – Sarah Perry
I was given this to read. It wouldn’t have been my first choice because I’d have assumed it would take too long and I have very little time. But I was surprised by the pace and the quirks. You can actually whip through it and then go back and linger on the clever, beautiful bits. A bundle of unique characters all vividly still with you long after the book is finished.
THE NAKANO THRIFT SHOP – Hiromi Kawakami
I LOVED this! It was a present and I’ve never read any Japanese translated fiction before but I will now. I realised while reading this that there are some books you want to race through to the end and others that you just want to live inside. You go to bed half an hour early to be in the pages. This for me was that. I just adored being in the gentle, clever, sweet, interesting, intriguing world. A lovely book.
LA LA LAND
I’ve already written a whole piece about this. But I would say, it’s the only film I’ve been to the cinema to see twice. And the only film I’ve been to the cinema to see on my own! Shock horror. But the seal has been broken, I’m going to go solo way more often. It’s very mellow (once you’ve moved away from the people chatting over popcorn through all the emotional bits).
WESTWORLD (TV version)
This was a roller coaster for me. Brilliant at the beginning. Bit slow in the middle and a bit too focused on the violence. Excellent at the end.
Completely not what I expected! I sat down thinking it would be all Wes Anderson kooky and then suddenly everyone is running around half-naked killing deer. But it’s really good! And Viggo’s great.
BRIDGET JONES’S BABY
So nice to be back in Bridget’s world. Fall-off-the-sofa funny at times. Best choice at the end but worried that Bridget would still be lonely once credits rolled.
And, in case you’re interested, in the Under 3s world I have enjoyed:
TOPSY AND TIM – massive nostalgia, so strong I can almost taste it.
TOR FREEMAN – Brilliant illustrator.
More SHIRLEY HUGHES – can’t get enough of Alfie and Lucy & Tom
TOY STORY 1, 2 & 3 – just get better every time you watch them (I may live to regret that statement).
Not a bad start to the year, as far as excellent escapism goes.
Woo hoo. I am totally delighted.
There are some fantastic authors on the list and you couldn’t go wrong picking any of them for a little escapism in the sunshine…
The only thing now is to work out what to wear to the awards. And only a month to decide!
Oh god, I bought the really expensive bag. (See previous post.)
It was a direct result of La La Land. I needed something to counter the freewheeling filmic comedown.
As a cinema experience La La Land was one unlike very few previously. I had no desire to make a witty whispered aside, glance around in moments of boredom to contemplate the audience, think about whether or not I needed the loo, wish I’d got popcorn. My face was glued to the screen, a mesmerised smile glued to my face. I never looked left to see if my partner was enjoying it. I barely acknowledged the people getting up to pee mid-showing. I was just slap bang there, in full technicolour, cinemascope, all-singing all-dancing, blissful enjoyment.
I’d forgotten the searing, heart-thumping exquisite delight I get from a musical. From Singin’ in the Rain to Grease 2. But from the opening set piece I was instantly reminded how much I love a spontaneous burst into song. Coupled with Gosling, added to which Emma Stone, it was two hours of heaven. As Variety so perfectly puts it, La La Land’s ‘most convincing pleasures are the moments when it lifts the audience into a state of old-movie exaltation, leading us to think, “What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again.”’
Happy, I was ecstatic. Since leaving the cinema – feeling dangerously like an accomplished singer and dancer – I’ve wasted hours reading every review and every interview. I’m immersed. One of my friends is furious with the film and I can’t wait for our forthcoming debate. I’m pining for La La Land 2 which my husband scoffs will never happen (and I want it even more now just to prove him wrong). I can feel my fingers tug, for the first time ever, towards fan fiction just to satisfy the craving left by the credits rolling.
I know in reality I need to stop mooning about and get to work. To write something. But for now the new bag is doing sterling work plugging the La La Land gap.
The new year is well under way. I can’t hide from it any longer pretending it’s still justifiably Christmas. I’m back at work, scribbling messily in a new notebook imagining a time when I’ll look back on these scribbles and laugh at who I naively thought these characters were going to be! But you’ve got to start somewhere (I remind myself every book.)
I also have a teetering pile of new books on my shelf. I kicked off the year with Samantha King’s THE CHOICE – a completely gripping psychological suspense that had me glued to the pages and rushing through to the end. It’s a bum on the edge of your seat kind of read that you can’t put down until it’s done.
Up next has got to be Maria Semple’s TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT. I loved WHERE D’YOU GO, BERNADETTE? so this is a real treat that I’ve been saving for just the right time – like storing up all your chocolate as a kid or, as I’m currently doing, building up to buying a bag I REALLY want because the anticipation makes it all the better (re the bag however, I’ve been putting it off for a year now – going into the shop and picking it up then putting it down again – and I’m not sure I’m ever going to take the plunge, it’s been so long!)
For Christmas I got FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY by Susan Jeffers and I’m intending for it to have a huge impact on my life. I will soon be fearless. I will buy aforementioned bag.
My fingers are also itching to start THE BREAKDOWN by BA Paris but I can’t read two suspense back to back – I need a breather from all the stress and fear. (Although maybe that’s about to change!)
Then there’s THE RIVIERA SET by Mary S Lovell… it’s a signed copy! Woo hoo. I want to read that immediately too. And Dawn O’Porter’s THE COWS…
So many books. So little time. I’ve actually got the slight reading fear, but I’m going to do it anyway!
And for anyone who wants to try something new this year, The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe is only 99p at the moment. It’s the start of the Cherry Pie Island series and a novella so completely undaunting and speedily devourable! There’s absolutely nothing to fear! http://amzn.to/2ieBUSr