Guardian links

In this week’s Guardian Review section Henry Eliot reflects on his favourite literary locations, you can read the article here. It’s the hottest literary locations to visit – when lockdown ends.

Lucy Jago has gathered together books about female friendship but the piece isn’t on the website. The only one that I’ve read on her list is Vera Brittain’s Testament of Friendship, but she also mentions Sula by Toni Morrison, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, Sebastian Barry’s Annie Dunne and Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe. For some reason this article isn’t appearing on The Guardian website so I can’t link to it. Have you read any of these books?

There was an article in the main newspaper about John le Carre who took out Irish nationality a while before his recent death. It was Brexit which pushed him to take the decision. You can read about it here.

Tom Gauld’s cartoon below gave me a laugh – I so agree!

gauld.

Flying the flag?

How do you feel about flag flying? I don’t often stick my head above that political parapet but I’ve always been very suspicious about people and places who feel the need to fly a flag. I think it dates from when I visited Northern Ireland where flags are everywhere and then some months later the first time I was in France I noticed that the town hall doorways were flanked by enormous flags. I think it’s a manifestation of basic insecurity if you have to do things like that.

Recently there have been various Conservative MPs on TV seemingly vying with each other to see who can have the biggest and fanciest display of union jacks/flags – in their own homes – strategically placed for their webcams. Honestly I felt embarrassed for them and the TV journalists couldn’t help having a wee bit of fun with them. Those MPs must feel deeply insecure!

Anyway, to make matters even worse the news today is that all government buildings in the UK have been told they must fly the union flag. Previously they were only flown on around twenty days a year. It’s more than a wee bit worrying that in the middle of a pandemic there must be people in power who are wasting time on nonsense like this. It’s so obvious that they’ve been watching the copious displays of flags during the recent US elections and for some reason feel the need to emulate them.

You can read about it in this Guardian article.

It’s rather unfortunate that the union flag has been hijacked by the British fascists over the years, but then it seems that the Tory party has also been hijacked by them. It’s just very sad that David Cameron didn’t realise that himself and was so out of step with his party that he was clueless to the danger he was putting the country in when he caved in to them and had the EU referendum.

This building in Perth has a lovely array of wee flags, it has them all, or as many as they can fit on it anyway and they’re of equal status, click on it to enlarge it.

Perth, Scotland

It was Samuel Johnson who said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. – Enough said.

The Guardian Review – some links

I thought you might be interested in some of these links to articles from last Saturday’s Guardian Review.

The Guardian has asked seven writers about their survival strategies in lockdown, you can read the article here.

There’s a review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new book Klara and the Sun. It’s another masterpiece apparently.

There’s a review of Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

There’s an article about a great crop of children’s books being published, aimed at children aged eight and over. You can read it here.

Welsh Rarebit – a Felicity Cloake recipe

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit Again

Yesterday I decided to cook something a bit different for lunch, using a recipe from Felicity Cloake’s book. I had never cooked Welsh rarebit before – or Welsh rabbit as it is sometimes known, although I have eaten it before of course. It’s really easy to make and was absolutely delicious although as you can see, despite the fact that we used three bits of bread between us, the mixture still overflowed a lot, next time I’ll use four bits of bread. This is just posh cheese on toast. We used a wholemeal loaf which Jack cut thick slices from.

We didn’t have any stout but I used Newcastle Brown Ale instead, Jack was happy to finish the rest of it, I am not a fan of beer although it is tasty in this recipe.

You can read the Guardian article which appears in the book along with the recipe here.

Guardian links

Today I just have a couple of bookish links from this week’s Guardian.

There’s a review by Kathryn Hughes of Frostquake: The Frozen Winter of 1962 and How Britain Emerged a Different Country by Juliet Nicolson which sounds like an interesting read to me.

I enjoyed reading author Jane Smiley’s answers in The books that made me article which you can read here. In her answer to My earliest reading memory she mentions Laura Lee Hope’s The Bobsey Twins. I loved those books as a youngster and I’ve never seen anyone else mention them.

Did you read any of Laura Lee Hope’s books?

Guardian Review links

It’s ages since I wrote about some Guardian Review articles that I think might be of interest to people, so here goes!

Last week’s Review had an article in it about Patricia Highsmith, it sounds like she was a very strange character herself. You can read it here. The world’s champion ball-bouncer is a short story by her which has been unseen for 73 years.

There’s a new Dostoevsky out – Dostoevsky in Love by Alex Christofi, it looks like it might be an interesting read.

I will definitely be trying to get my hands on Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan. It’s a novel which is set across nine decades in an Edinburgh tenement.

If SF and Fantasy are your thing then have a look at Eric Brown’s column here.

Millionaire’s Shortbread – Felicity Cloake’s recipe

It’s a long time since I posted a recipe on Pining, but one day last week Jack said that there was a tin of condensed milk in the cupboard which was coming up to its use by date, he likes to keep track of things like that. Anyway it was a perfect excuse to use it either to make some highly calorific Scottish Tablet or Millionaire’s Shortbread. As I had made and scoffed tablet the week before I opted for the even more calorific recipe. The recipe I use is Felicity Cloake’s from The Guardian, you can see it here.

Millionaire's shortbread , Felicity Cloake

I used a good quality milk chocolate for the topping. This recipe makes a really weighty amount, in fact I weighed the whole thing and it came out at over 3.5 lbs including the tin which isn’t that heavy. I think the whole thing must add up to about 3,000 calories! We don’t have much left now, it’s just far too moreish!

Millionaire's shortbread

A Couple of Links

Here we are almost at yet another Saturday, I can’t believe how quickly the days go by in these Covid-19 times. Anyway, last Saturday there was an interesting article in the Guardian Review – Me and my detective – Partners in Crime. In it some crime authors write about their detectives. How does it feel to live with the same fictional character for decades, and when do you decide to call it a day? You can read the article via the link above. It includes Lee Child, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, Lynda La Plante, Jo Nesbo and others.

Elsewhere, at Son of the Rock in fact – Jack always has a music post on Fridays, sadly it’s often inspired by the death of an artist that he has admired over the years, but his recent music post is a comparison of two versions of The In Crowd, the original by Dobie Gray and the early 1970s Bryan Ferry version, though he didn’t choose a video of Ferry performing it. Ahem, that one reminds me so much of my school days and I actually bought and still own the album it comes from. Click the link to hear them.

Two versions of The In Crowd.

Ferry’s version was released in 1974 but this performance is from two years later. It’s been captioned In Crown for some odd reason. There were a lot of dodgy moustaches around in the mid 1970s. That one was a mistake, Bryan.

Covid-19 days

From tomorrow we in Scotland we will be able to meet up with one other household, outside and socially distanced – a maximum of eight people. That seems a bit excessive to me, I think it’s the eight people bit that scares me a wee bit. However I don’t think we’ll have to cope with that many visitors as our family members don’t live locally, and as we’ve been asked not to travel far – mainly because we shouldn’t be going into the house to use the loo – I think it’ll be quite some time before we are meeting up with our immediate family.

Speaking of loos – we had a bit of a domestic disaster about a month ago. While settling down to drink our 9 pm coffee and preparing to settle down to watch something on TV I discovered a puddle of water on the hall floor, while looking at it with puzzlement a drip splashed into it. I dreaded looking up at the ceiling, but it had to be done and it was even worse than I had feared. There were lots of bubbles in the plaster and in two places water had broken through it, it was even seeping down the walls. At first we couldn’t even figure out where the water was coming from but I tracked it down to the en suite shower room toilet cistern. It’s one of those supposedly water conserving push button efforts that must have been designed by an idiot as they have two holes in the cistern, accidents waiting to happen. The water was dripping straight down a pipe so showing no trace in the actual shower room. This is the second time one of them has malfunctioned here resulting in a soaked ceiling below. We couldn’t get a plumber into the house due to the lockdown and there was not enough space to fit a spanner in to fix it ourselves. After many views of You Tube videos and several trips to tool centres (wearing masks) and a DIY store which thankfully had just re-opened Jack managed to fix it. It took him about three weeks, I think he was determined it wasn’t going to beat him. I’m hoping we can fix the ceiling ourselves too, I’m quite good at that sort of thing.

We locked down a wee bit before we were told to by Nicola Sturgeon, it just seemed the sensible thing to do and after eleven weeks or so I’m well used to it, I’m amazed at how quickly the time has gone and also appalled that I don’t seem to be getting on with many of the things that have been getting put off for ages, they’re still being put off. I seem to be brilliant at dodging unappealing tasks! I have been reading a lot, especially in the early days of the lockdown, now gardening has taken over. Our weather has been scorching over the last few days and we haven’t had any rain to speak of for ages, the ground is like concrete. Actually our weather is a bit of a worry as it’s still only May and we’ve already had temperatures of 25 centigrade / 77 Fahrenheit. I think that’s a record for May, it’s definitely global warming.

Our jigsaw season is over I think. If I can get my hands on some fence paint I’ll be doing that instead, in common with half the country. I’m just so thankful that we have a garden to spend time in. When I think of some of the places we’ve lived in over the nearly 44 years we’ve been married (I know, I can hardly believe it) lockdown would have been absolutely hell in some of our early homes as they weren’t places we enjoyed living in, but were all we could afford at the time. I recall the first house we bought which was in the south of England which only had a plasterboard wall between us and the house next door, apparently absolutely legal in England! In those circumstances I might have been close to murder by now.

The only occasional strange thing that I have been experiencing is flashes of places coming into my mind when I least expect it, like picture postcards of places that I love visiting. They’re all rural scenic places, no shops involved. Hills, beaches, stone bridges, castles and riverbanks, but I’m in no great rush to visit any of them soon, just in case hundreds of other people are having the same idea. I have compiled a little list of new places that I want to visit – if life ever does get back to what we regarded as normal. What about you? Are you raring to go out and about or will you take it easy and be safe rather than sorry?

The photos of packed beaches in England horrified me – what are they thinking of?!

beach

Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan – a poem

I’m not a huge fan of poetry but sometimes one just hits the spot as did Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan. It’s in praise of libraries.

Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan

I always loved libraries, the quiet of them,
The smell of the plastic covers and the paper
And the tables and the silence of them,
The silence of them that if you listened wasn’t silence,
It was the murmur of stories held for years on shelves
And the soft clicking of the date stamp,
The soft clickety-clicking of the date stamp.

I used to go down to our little library on a Friday night
In late summer, just as autumn was thinking about
Turning up, and the light outside would be the colour
Of an Everyman cover and the lights in the library
Would be soft as anything, and I’d sit at a table
And flick through a book and fall in love
With the turning of the leaves, the turning of the leaves.

And then at seven o’clock Mrs Dove would say
In a voice that wasn’t too loud so it wouldn’t
Disturb the books “Seven o’clock please …”
And as I was the only one in the library’s late summer rooms
I would be the only one to stand up and close my book
And put it back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss,
Back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss.

And I’d go out of the library and Mrs Dove would stand
For a moment silhouetted by the Adult Fiction,
And then she would turn the light off and lock the door
And go to her little car and drive off into the night
That was slowly turning the colour of ink and I would stand
For two minutes and then I’d walk over to the dark library
And just stand in front of the dark library.

This is the first in a new series from the Guardian. The poet Carol Ann Duffy will be choosing poems from her her own library and sharing them with Guardian readers. Poems to get us through.

I also loved my local library when I was growing up and I was lucky enough to end up working in it, thankfully that one is still open, well it is the main county library, but it makes me feel really sad when I think of how many libraries have closed over the last ten years or so, meaning that so many children in particular are not going to have that library experience. It’s such a false economy.

Ian McMillan is obviously passionate about reading and literacy, you can hear him speaking about the subject in the You Tube video below.