Lynne Reid Banks 1929 – 2024

It’s not all that long ago that I  was surprised to discover that the author Lynne Reid Banks was still alive, but news of her death was printed in today’s Guardian.  You can read her obituary here.

The first book by her that I read was The L-Shaped Room which was the first book in a trilogy.  It’s a great read and although it’s getting on for 50 years since I read it there are still parts of that book which are very vivid in my mind. I passed my copy of the book on to Jack who at that time read mainly Science Fiction, then my mother read it, she read mainly books of the family saga type, particularly Catherine Cookson who was hugely popular at that time. Both Jack and my mother really enjoyed The L-Shaped Room too, it was made into a film starring Leslie Caron. She later went on to write books for children, the most well known one being The Indian in the Cupboard.

Since then I’ve enjoyed several more books by her, but I still have a few to read. She was a fair old age though, 94 so she might have been ready to go, unlike some authors recently who popped off far too early.

If you haven’t read anything by Lynne Reid Banks you should give her a go.

K.M. Peyton – obituary

I have to admit that I was surprised when I saw the author  K.M. Peyton’s obituary in The Guardian this morning, mainly because I had just assumed that she had died years ago, she was 94 years old.  I loved her Flambards books and the 1979 TV series which was based on them.  I must admit that I hadn’t realised that she wrote a lot more books than those ones over the years. I don’t recall seeing any others on my trawls around second-hand bookshops.

To another subject  –  last week.

I suppose it had to happen, but after managing to dodge COVID for four years it caught up with us last week, after what had been the quietest week we had had for about a month. We only went to the library and the supermarket, both of which were really quite empty. Anyway, we survived and after three really horrible days of constant headache, coughing and exhaustion the symptoms eased off and we’re just about back to normal now.

The variant that we got obviously managed to dodge the vaccination as Jack had only got his booster last month, I wasn’t eligible, but he was just as ill as I was. I’ve been told that it is people who had managed to stay COVID free who are getting it now, apparently it was inevitable. It wasn’t a great start to the new year but I suppose it could have been worse! In one way it’s really good as with the imminent arrival of our second grandchild at least it menas that we don’t have to worry about passing it on to the new baby when it arrives as we should be immune for a while now.


My 2022 in Goodreads

At the beginning of 2022 I signed up on Goodreads to read 100 books within the year, but I actually managed to read 115. I signed up to read 100 books again in 2023. I find it’s a good way of keeping track of my reading, mind you I still jot them down in an old school jotter too, very old!

Anyway, if you’re interested you can have a look back at everything I read over the last year here.

At the moment I’m re-reading Wolf Hall this is a complete indulgence for me, I rarely re-read anything, but I loved that series so much I just had to visit it again. It’s also sort of in memory of Hilary Mantel who died so unexpectedly (for me anyway) last year.

Some Guardian links

It’s ages since I’ve linked to any Guardian articles that I’ve enjoyed, but this Saturday’s edition has some particularly interesting pieces, so here goes.

I was on my way to Edinburgh on Friday when Hilary Mantel’s death was announced on the car radio. It’s such a shame, especially as I’m sure she had several more books in her. You can read her obituary here. And Lucy Knight has written an article about her here. I’ve read most of Mantel’s books but I was just thinking that it’s about time I re-read her Cromwell trilogy.

There’s another article about her here, by Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian’s chief culture writer.

Elsewhere in the newspaper there are extracts from the actor Alan Rickman’s secret showbiz diaries, from the year 2000 to 2011. They’re from his book Madly, Deeply:The Alan Rickman Diaries. He’s another sadly missed person.

I don’t often descend into politics but the mini budget which we’ve just suffered is so depressing, especially if you have already lived through the Thatcher years and know the outcome.

Marina Hyde’s Opinion piece on the madness is well worth reading. “If you are poor, ask yourself now: why not be rich instead?

The Guardian – some links

It’s absolutely ages since I linked to some Guardian articles, so here goes!

I was sad to see Joan Lingard’s obituary in The Guardian last week, mind you she was 90. You can read it here. I don’t know if it can be said to be apt that she actually died on July the 12th, but it’s certainly quite spooky as she wrote a book with the title The Twelth Day of July, which is of course the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Joan Lingard was born in a taxi in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile/High Street!

With all that’s going on in America at the moment re Roe v Wade and abortion rights/women’s rights, I thought you might be interested in reading a very informative article on how things were done in the past. I often wondered how so many families in the past managed to be so small with no real contraception available! You can read about it here. Abortion in the 19th-century US was widely accepted as a means of avoiding the risks of pregnancy, and many women routinely got rid of the problem, it was acceptable right up until ‘quickening’ when you can first feel movement, usually around the fourth month. The idea of banning or punishing it came later. The article is written by Tamara Dean.

There’s a book review: Scotland The Global History – 1603 to the Present by Murray Pittock which you can read here. I think I’ll probably try to get a copy of the book, or borrow it. There’s no doubt that Scotland and Scots have contributed a lot to the world over the centuries, especially considering we’re such a wee country. But it’s time to look to the future and not dwell on the past glories!

from The Guardian Books section and Visit Scotland

It’s absolutely yonks since I shared a Guardian books link. I was particularly interested in The Books of My Life bit as this week it featured Penelope Lively, a writer I’ve really enjoyed in the past. You can read it here. I was interested to read that she too has been disappointed when re-reading what had been favourite books in the past, but sometimes she falls back in love with them again. I don’t know if I could be bothered with having another go though – considering how many books I still want to read for the first time.

There’s also a section on some of the books due to be published this coming year which you can read here if you’re interested.

If you happen to be more interested in what’s going on in Scotland you might enjoy looking at the Visit Scotland site. Even if you can’t travel here you can enjoy seeing what’s going on and maybe plan a trip for the future.

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!


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.