George Michael

Anyone who has heard Wham!’s Ray of Sunshine knows that George Michael understood the joy that music can bring to people’s lives. I was a teenager in the 80s, and I was a Whamette. I loved other music too, particularly Queen, but Wham! were my teenage love band. I had my first slow dance with a boy to Careless Whisper.

Then Wham! came to a natural end, George went solo, and I stayed a fan. His voice is still the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. There’s a lot being written today about his gay activism, his generous donations to charity and to individuals in need, and, of course, his incredible talent. One day soon I’m sure I’ll be ready to think about all of those things, and to listen to the joyful songs – Club Tropicana, Outside, Amazing, Bad Boys, but for now, all I feel is grief and loss and sadness.

Who You Gonna Call?

Just back from seeing new Ghostbusters. Loved it. It’s more or less the same plot as the first Ghostbusters (in the same way that The Force Awakens is more or less the same plot as A New Hope), and it’s just as enjoyable. And, the Ghostbusters themselves are four women who are intelligent, funny, brave, loyal, determined, and completely kick-ass while remaining fully clothed and avoiding cat-fights. A film like this was well overdue.

Travel Writing by Women

The Scottish Book Trust have done a recommendation of travel books written by women, and included a link to Bani Amor’s blog where she explores travel narratives by QUILTBAG individuals and people of colour.

I really need to win the lottery so I can spend less time at work and more time reading. The number of books on my “I want to read this” list on my Edinburgh libraries account is into the hundreds.

Personal Reading Recommendations – Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

Another personal reading recommendation from Edinburgh libraries.

This time it was Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh. I seem to have read a few bee-themed novels this year, and enjoyed them all. *

Albert Honig was taught bee-keeping by his father when he was a child, and has continued to keep and care for bees all his life. His neighbours, sisters Claire and Hilda Straussmann, are found murdered in their house. As Albert helps the police detective with his inquiries, he looks back over his life, his relationship with the Straussmann family, and what he has learned about bees. Each chapter begins with a nugget of information about bees which is related to that part of the plot.

This is a very slow book. Albert, although a nice man, rambles on in the way people who have worked with elderly people will be familiar with. He takes forever to get to the point and many of his maunderings seem unrelated to the matters at hand. As the book progresses though, you see that Albert is giving us all the information we need to work out who killed the sisters, as he works it out for himself.

I enjoyed this book very much.

*The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell, and The Bees by Laline Paull.

Personal Reading Recommendations – Terra

As already mentioned, Edinburgh Libraries offer a personal reading recommendations service. This week I finished one of their recommendations for me, Terra by Mitch Benn.

An alien makes an unauthorised visit to Earth to study native species, accidentally frightens a couple into running away from their car leaving their newborn baby behind. He takes the baby back to his home planet and brings her up, as much like his own as possible given that on his planet, she’s the alien.

The first two thirds of the book are pretty good, but when the inevitable peril arrives, the resolution is trite and predicable. It feels a bit like the author knew he had to finish it and had run out of original ideas. There are loose ends left unfinished which suggest an opening for at least one sequel. The tone is uneven, there are some inconsistencies in the plotting (the Fnrrians don’t know about fiction? really?), and it’s definitely more of a young adult book, but it’s enjoyable with some very funny bits, and I would read a sequel if one were forthcoming.

Next – Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Personal Reading Recommendations Update

In this post I talked about Edinburgh libraries‘ personal recommendations service. I’ve read a couple of the recommendations they made for me now, so time for an update.

The first one I tried was I Laughed, I Cried: One Woman, One Hundred Days, The Mother Of All Challenges by Viv Groskop. I’d never heard of Viv Groskop before, but I have seen her name pop up now and again since I read the book. She wants to be a stand-up comedian and believes that doing 100 gigs is the best way to find out if she can really do it. 100 gigs at one or two a week will take a long time, so she decides to do 100 gigs in 100 days – this means having to do 2 or 3 some days to make up the for the days when she can’t do any.

I think if I’d had more interest in Groskop and her ambitions I would have enjoyed this book more, but it’s hard to get involved in the career aspirations of someone you’ve never heard of. It’s not a bad book, and wannabe comedians might benefit from the lessons she learns about gigging. My overwhelming feeling throughout this book was how incredibly selfish she is, pursuing something with such a tiny chance of success regardless of how it affects her family. And then I had to ask myself if I would feel the same if this book was about a man doing the same thing, and I decided yes I would.

The next one I tried was The Room by Jonas Smith Karlsson. What a strange book. It’s narrated by Bjorn, who is moved to a new office job for reasons we’re never quite clear about. He finds a room in the new workplace which only he can see. It doesn’t appear on the plans of the building, and when he’s in it, all his colleagues see is him standing in the corridor. I enjoyed this book very much but I really didn’t understand it!

Currently reading Terra by Mitch Benn…

Everyone’s Entitled to Due Process

As already stated, I’m no fan of Jeremy Clarkson or Top Gear and I couldn’t give a shit if Top Gear is off the air.

I don’t know what disciplinary offence he committed, and neither do any of the public who are clamouring for his instant dismissal or his immediate reinstatement and recommendation for sainthood. What I do know is that in an organisation like the BBC, there will be clear policies and procedures for managing disciplinary matters. Suspension is usually used as a last resort, to remove someone from a workplace so that a full investigation can be carried out without people feeling scared to say what they saw and heard or pressured to say something did or didn’t happen. A suspension isn’t a punishment or a conviction. While the person is suspended, the management team will investigate the alleged incident, get statements from witnesses, and decide whether or not there is enough evidence to warrant a formal disciplinary hearing. After the disciplinary hearing, if the allegations are upheld, disciplinary action would be taken against the person and that might be dismissal, demotion, oral or written warnings or other.

At this stage, Clarkson has been suspended. If the rumours are true and the allegations are that he punched someone, then suspension is entirely appropriate during the investigation. The BBC have a responsibility to keep their staff safe and allowing someone suspected of violence to remain at work would be unacceptable. Equally, Clarkson is entitled to a safe workplace too, and it might not be appropriate for him to remain at work in an atmosphere of tension, until the investigation is complete.

Everyone involved in this incident is entitled to have their views heard in a safe process, and to feel that their concerns have been taken seriously. And all those people clamouring for Clarkson to be reinstated need to remember that it’s not ok for celebrities to be immune from normal disciplinary processes just because they’re famous and bring the money in. Remember how well that worked out with Jimmy Savile?

Personal Reading Recommendations

I read a lot and I like lots of different things, and I like to have new things recommended to me. My friends and I often borrow each other’s books and we recommend things we’ve enjoyed. I also use the Emerald Street recommendations and have found some great books that way. For the last 18 months or so I’ve been working my way through the Agatha Christie Poirot series and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone alphabet series. I’ve finished the Poirots (90% of them have exactly the same plot – someone is murdered, Poirot says “someone knows something which is a clue to who the murderer is. That person needs to come and tell me before the murderer kills them too,” then the person who knows the clue gets murdered, and then he works it all out) and I’m looking forward to the new Poirot by Sophie Hannah who is one of my favourite authors. And I’ve nearly finished, or at least caught up to the author, the Kinsey Millhone books, having started U is for Undertow this weekend. (I should say I have alternated other books along with the two crime series; I haven’t just been reading crime and nothing else for 18 months!)

So I’m getting to the end of two long series and I’m looking around for what to read next. Edinburgh libraries are offering personal reading recommendations to library account holders. I’m a very frequent user of Edinburgh libraries and I’ve never found them to be anything less than friendly, helpful and generally great to deal with. I’m always interested to see what other people would recommend to me so I thought it was worth signing up. I duly filled in the form detailing what I already like, and this week they sent me an email with six recommendations.

The recommendations are

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  • I Laughed, I Cried: One Woman, One Hundred Days, The Mother Of All Challenges by Viv Groskop
  • Terra by Mitch Benn (Mitch used to perform in comedy routines in Edinburgh with  Ian Kendall who some of my friends will remember from his days doing magic tricks in Old Orleans)
  • The Room by Jonas Smith Karlsson
  • Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
  • After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry

All of those except one are completely new to me, and looking at the blurb, I might easily have passed them over, but I’ve added them to my library “to be reserved” list and I will give them a go. The last one, the Sarah Perry one, I bought for my Nook, I think because of an Emerald Street recommendation. I took it on holiday last year and despite having nothing else to do except lie on Ornos beach and read it, I could not get into it. I tried, I really did, but I think it was just too much literaryness and not enough story. The Goodreads page for After Me Comes the Flood is full of reviews praising the writing but even the most laudatory are pointing out that nothing happens. I usually do manage to finish books but I gave up on this one, bored out of my skull. Beautiful writing is all very well, but when nothing’s happening, I can’t be bothered to struggle through it. I might try it again one day, but not until I’ve read everything else I have!