Lunch with Albert

A short anecdote about a very dear friend, sadly gone ahead.

Albert © Jacqui Jay Grafton

When I first began to forget the names of things (apparently the first thing to go is proper nouns) I swore I would never resort to ‘whatchamacallit’ and ‘thingymajig’; even if it meant a pause in the conversation, I would just wait until the word came. That worked for a while and then the next stage appeared – the word would come to mind but the tongue wouldn’t spit it out and the pauses got longer while mind and tongue had a little domestic to see who would win. Now, sometimes the name of a person doesn’t come at all and I have to admit defeat and move on, only for the elusive name to pop up when I’m talking about something entirely different.

I was talking about books recently, while having lunch with Albert, and he was describing a biography just published in Spanish about an Irish hero / activist (history hasn’t made its mind up which he is yet) from the time of the Easter uprising in 1921. Both of us knew exactly who the biography was about and could regurgitate clues – he was hanged, his first name was Roger etc. – but we couldn’t tell each other what his name was. So we were in the strange position of having a complete conversation about someone without once mentioning his name. We eventually moved on to talk about other things and, in the middle of discussing the pros and cons of the present Government, I suddenly banged the table in triumph and shouted “Casement!”. The cutlery jumped in the air, the wine glasses rocked (oh yes, there was wine) and everyone in the restaurant turned to stare, while a waiter rushed over to see if everything was all right with Sir and Madam.

It was a bit like the Meg Ryan moment in When Harry met Sally.

Only non-sexual.

And geriatric.

Finding new authors: Kit de Waal

Over a period of many years, I have accrued quite a list of favourite authors from a wide variety of genres. Sometimes, it can be quite a long wait before new novels appear and I am always on the look-out for new writers to add to my list. It doesn’t happen very often, but, just this week I discovered Kit de Waal and have already devoured two of her books.

de Waal has an interesting background in that she identifies as British/Irish, having been brought up by an Irish mother and an African-Caribbean bus driver father in Birmingham among the Irish community, and has recalled: “We were the only black children at the Irish Community Centre and the only ones with a white mother at the West Indian Social Club.”

The books I have read so far, My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time, are different to my usual genres. Reading the initial chapters, they seem quite cosy (usually anathema to me) but build slowly and surely to an ending which is both surprising and entirely logical. Sounds odd? Read them. You won’t be disappointed. Click the links for full synopsis and reviews.

She’s definitely on my list!

Circles of Confusion

Writing your first book at the age of 76 can be quite scary. Today, I hit the 20,000 word mark with Circles of Confusion. Here’s where it begins.

1997

There’s a yellow ribbon tied to the handle on the front door, so I walk round the side of the house to go in by the kitchen. Mummy explained to me that I mustn’t use the front door if the ribbon is there. She’s busy and I mustn’t interrupt her. I don’t mind because I like being by myself. I can read a book or practice my writing – and sometimes the biscuit man will be there. I hope he’s there today. Maybe he’ll have Jaffa cakes, he knows they’re my favourite.

The Merlin

I wrote this little piece of flash fiction for a competition. I didn’t win, But I’d never heard of flash fiction before, so I learnt something new.

“Look, son! Merlin!”

Dad pointing at the sky, excited.

Me, sun-dazzled, looking up, searching for a swirling cape, a flash of magic.

“You’re looking in the wrong place. Over the tree. There he goes!”

After-images burn my eyes. Is that him, the golden streak on the edge of my vision.

“Yes! I see him!”

“Keep your eye on him. He’s coming down.”

My heart swells.

“Where is he?”

“On fence post, son. Look, over there.”

I can’t see the wizard.

Only a small bird, like a pigeon, sitting by the gate to the cow pasture.

Knife, Jo Nesbo

I’ve been a fan of Jo Nesbo from the early days of The Bat, Cockroaches and The Redbreast. I loved his gritty, raw style – so different from some of the more anodyne British and American authors (with a few notable exceptions, of course). His peak, for me, came with The Snowman and The Leopard, both of which I am happy to re-read at any time. With a first reading of Knife, however, I fear we may have reached the end of the road.

Hole’s wife, Rakel, gets killed in the first few chapters and. predictably, he descends into a miasma of drink and bad decisions. It’s all getting a bit old and I’m not sure how many more books he can stagger through without succumbing to liver disease. However, he manages to stumble and stagger through an inordinate number of red herrings and suspects before finally solving the crime. A sub-plot runs alongside the main one, which Harry mucks up and ignores before ‘brilliantly ‘ tying it into the final resolution.

For reasons I cannot fathom, the afore-mentioned suspects each have an interminable backstory which goes on for pages until the original plot has been all but forgotten. There are quite a few lengthy discourses on technicalities and practicalities which scream, “Look at all the research I did”. For the first time ever, I found myself skipping pages in a Nesbo novel.

There were flashes of Nesbo’s brilliance but they were too few and too far between. The unrelenting misery of Hole’s life, along with over-writing and, quite frankly, convoluted and unrealistic plotting nearly led me to giving up. After enduring the risible ending, I wished I had.

Sadly, another favourite author bites the dust.

We need to talk, Kris

The old Silver Tongued Devil himself

Kris Kristofferson has been my favourite singer / poet / writer for most of my adult life. His songs are often whispering along in the background while I’m writing or working on my photographs. I know all the words – they’ve become background noise. Today, though, the words to When I Loved Her began to register in a way they never did before. Kris ends the song with the words, “And I’ll never understand … why I lost her”. So, I thought I ought to help him out.

Well, she didn’t look as pretty as some others I have known
You just called her ugly or, at best, plain
And she wasn’t good at conversation when we were alone
You mean she was boring or you just didn’t listen?
But she had a way of making me believe that I belonged
So she stroked your ego?
And it felt like coming home … when I found her
Were you missng your mother?

‘Cause she seemed to be so proud of me just walking holding hands
It was nice basking in her admiration
And she didn’t think that money was the measure of a man
Didn’t have to buy her presents or take her out
And we seemed to fit together when I held her in my arms
That’s nice, particularly as she was so undemanding
And it left me feeling warm … when I loved her

‘Cause she brightened up the day like the early morning sun
Always agreed with you, made breakfast?
And she made what I was doing seem worthwhile
Praised your work, bigged you up
It’s the closest thing to living that I guess I’ve ever known
Yup, you really had it made
And it made me want to smile … when I loved her

I know some of us were born to cast our fortune to the winds
Is this where you do something for her?
And I guess I’m bound to travel down a road that never ends
No, we’re still talking about you
But I know I’ll never look upon the likes of her again
Why on earth would she leave, oh wait ….
And I’ll never understand … why I lost her

Found and Lost, like something from the Lost Property Office; never once mentioned by name; only referred to as an appendage to Kris. She didn’t get lost, she ran for the hills.