Monday, 25 February 2013

When good bloggers go...

I wasn't going to blog today - B will be cross with me for doing so.

I had a funny turn with my eyes at the weekend (about which more later if it turns out there is more to say), and so I'm supposed to be staying away from computers.  And televisions.  And books.

But obviously he's out, and there's very little you can do on your own without using your eyes, and I'm weak willed.  So I was floating around the interweb, as you do.

And pondering.

Where do the bloggers go?

You know. Those people you read, maybe even email.  The ones you bond with, or laugh with, or just think "if she/he lived in my street, we'd be good friends".  The ones you just get.

The ones who just vanish.

Mwa, Modern Dilemma, Geriatric Mummy, Deer Baby and many others....

Where do they go?

Friday, 22 February 2013

On being human

What happens next....?

You are working for a small airline.  You are manning the customer service desk at a very small regional airport.

Late on a Sunday afternoon, one of your check-in colleagues approaches.  She can't find a booking in the system.  It's for a family - parents and four small children.  Children tired and whingy, parents looking equally exhausted.

There's a pretty obvious reason why the booking's not there.  It's Sunday 17 February and they've booked for Sunday 17 March.

It's the mother who spots this and points it out.  She is apologising profusely and is clearly on the verge of tears as she tries desperately to work out what on earth she's going to do with all these children overnight in an unfamiliar airport four hundred miles from home.

It's 2013.  You are a customer service operative.

What happens next?

Can you guess?

I wouldn't have.   Because she smiled reassuringly.  Looked up at me and said:

Don't worry.  I'll just move the booking over.

You didn't expect that, did you?

No charge, no hassle.  Just someone being human and kind.

And if I had managed to hold back the tears up until that point, the kindness was my undoing.

So thank you to Flybe and their staff at Exeter (and, admittedly, the fortunate circumstance of it being a pretty empty flight).  We wouldn't be home without you. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The accidental photograph

Sometimes you just click the button at exactly the right time.

This is not one of those times.

Last week we were in Lanzarote for half term.  I know, lucky us.   My parents are there for six weeks (the heat is very good for my dad's health) and they asked us to join them.

It was beautiful weather, and we spent lots of time on the beach, frolicking in the water and building castles on the sand.

And you know the picture I wanted to get:  the one of S and A, in their same same but different swimming costumes (two for one in Sainsbury's as it happens), bright pink against the blue sea and the white sand.


I got this:

Tara wanted Boys in the Gallery this week.  I'm not sure this is the photo she was expecting either, so click through to Sticky Fingers for more pictures of boys.  Probably with more clothes on.  And faces.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Old Ways.

Somewhere in the dim and distant past, I studied literature.  And somewhere in my memory of those four years (it was literature in French and Russian so they gave us a year frolicking in parts foreign at the taxpayer's expense - free tertiary education, now there's an idea...) there's a seminar that came to  mind recently.

It was all about how reading is a two way process.  It's not just me, the reader, absorbing what you, the writer, put on paper, because I, the reader, bring my own attitudes, thoughts, even momentary moods to the party and I can't divorce my experience of reading from those.  So what I read is never going to be quite what you wrote, and what I read is going to be different from what anyone else reads, even if the words are the same.

And obviously, a callow youth (can you be a "youth" if you're female?) I thought (technical literary term here): Tosh.

But it's not, actually.  It's true, and I was really struck by it on reading The Old Ways, by Robert Macfarlane.

I'm not sure how to describe this book; it's part travelogue, part literary and art criticism, part biography, part meditation on geography, geology and man's relationship with both. It's not fable or myth, but parts of it read as though they are.  And throughout it's a sheer joy to read,  just for pleasure it gives in the act of reading - the right words in the right order. 

It's brilliant, and unsurprisingly it was picked by pretty much every book reviewer of last year as one of their books of the year. But, as I say, what it made me aware of, more, perhaps than anything else, was how I reacted to it. 

And it was all to do with his age.

I picked it up and read the first fifty or so pages thinking, if indeed I thought about it at all, that he was probably sixty-ish, with a lifetime of experience behind him, a gnarled old countryman, quite possibly bearded, rich in lore and legend.  I felt comfortable with that idea - happy to be led by someone with experience beyond any I could have.

Until I realised that I knew someone he writes about, and that being so, he probably wasn't at all what I'd been imagining.   He is, it turns out, a grand four months older than me.  But still with a lifetime of exciting experiences and intellectual questing beyond any I have.

People used to talk, didn't they, about the moment you realise that policemen are younger than you.  I've not had that.  You don't see policemen as often as you used to, after all.  But I think I now know what they felt.  Suddenly I had a vision of other stuff.  Things I could have been doing had.... well, had I don't know what, but had I been someone else, done something else, lived somewhere else.

I don't want to be an academic and writer, (well, I wouldn't mind being a writer, but you know what I mean), nor do I particularly want to walk the Broomway or sleep under hedges, but I read the rest of the book in a state of mild irritation with both Robert Macfarlane and myself - him for being what he is - polymath, walker, sailor, writer, friend of artists and craftspeople, writers and thinkers - and me for being none of those things.

It's not that I am unhappy being what I am, but that he made me aware of other possibilities that are now closed, if indeed they were ever open.  The paths not travelled.

It's a great book though.  Even if I didn't read it as he wrote it.  And even if he can't spell reivers correctly.

Image from Amazon.  Thank you, Amazon.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Lego or Playmobil?

I know.

It's one of those great questions of the 21st century, isn't it?  Up there with Are those bones Richard III's?  (very excited to find out they are, by the way), How can we solve third world debt? and What on earth is quantitative easing, anyway?

Playmobil or lego?

What do you think?

Two weekends ago we went to stay with some friends.  They had a big selection of duplo:  houses, hospitals, police stations and the like, and L absolutely loved it.  Not the construction element of it, but the playing imaginatively, creating tiny worlds.

It's her sixth birthday in three months time and as she is completely obsessed by planning it, I am becoming so too, and this weekend rather inspired me on the present front.

But at six she's clearly too old for duplo.

So should it be lego - on the basis that you get imaginative play and the inspirational foundations of a glittering career as a celebrity architect (maybe) - and if so, which bit of branding? How much do we hate lego friends a year or so after its launch, or is it not as bad as all that?  Or if we shy away from that and the movie tie-ins is there anything in the lego city that isn't fuelled entirely by speed and agression?

Or do we go with tried and tested, hasn't changed in thirty years (still can't walk) playmobil:  no construction, but a world of different sets to play with, each of which more reflects how she was playing with the duplo?  Even though it's, somehow, not quite as cool as lego. 

Or is that just me? 

And while you're at it, should they all have had capital letters?

Friday, 1 February 2013

Another thing I don't understand

I'm a pretty wordy sort of a girl.  Some readers of this blog might, indeed, say verbose.

I am not, usually, ever at a loss for words.

So why is it that there are some people to whom I have absolutely nothing to say?