(excellent linocut by zack, 7)
so. last friday i not only did an event at the playhouse but also took part in the one-day first story literary festival for schoolkids and teachers in the morning. it was organised by, among others, the incomparable william fiennes and katie waldegrave of first story and took place at the also-but-differently incomparable broughton castle. the writers talking and running workshops were starry, enthusiastic and inspiring (michael morpurgo, jackie kay, kate clnachy, philip pullman, meg rossoff...), the setting made edinburgh, hay and mantova look a little tawdry. and the kids, i think, had a fantastic time and, hopefuly, took something really valuable away with them. none of the antique weaponry on the walls was used in anger and there were, thankfully, no children-in-moat incidents due the persistent crocodiles-in-moat rumours. next year i'm going try very hard not to double-book so that i can hang around and spend more time with everyone. all of which sounds a little sugary and sentimental, but it really was that kind of day.
painting portraits, still. so much easier than writing. none of that worry about the big stuff, plot, structure, voice, idiom... just birdwatching-intensity observation and the slow accumulation of detail until the subject starts (hopefully) to rise off the paper. hair is a nightmare, as always, long blonde hair especially, having to find a language of shapes and colours so that it looks exactly like hair whie, in fact, being nothing like it. but shoes. god, shoes. i could paint shoes all day long...
war and peace, the new tranlsation by richard pevear and larissa volkhonsky, the crazy cinematic sweep of it
kintail, loch duich, mam ratagan, glenshiel, the kylerhea ferry, the sound of sleat, arnisdale, loch hourn and pretty everything thereabouts, like norway but smaller and better for vegetarians
the bbc4 rupert goold / patrick stewart / kate fleetwood macbeth, terrifying
emma on audibook read by juliette stevenson, a fine reason for walking everywhere
flying, or rather having flown, or rather starting finally to get over a profound flying phobia, which turns large parts of the world from semi-fictional place on the tv into places i might potentially visit someday
togo from ligne roset, possibly the most confortable armchair in the known universe
ah, the joys of the bourgeois life...
[kylerhea by martainn under creative commons on flcikr, airbus by andy mitchell ditto]
so, i finally bought one, not least because i'm asked every so often about the future of the book, so i should really know more about the subject. verdict... i'd expected the object itself to feel slightly fisher price but i rather liked it, the shape and weight, the way you don't have the hold the page open, the way you can read lying on your side. the qwerty keyboard is horrible but you rarely need it. however... the interface is crap. it's really hard to skip easily back to passages you remember. you can't underline or put a little asterisk at the top of the page. the bookmarking is laborious and practically invisible. even more annoying are the texts themselves, and not just the cheap out-of-copyright ones (the complete works of shakespeare for 67p, for example) which you'd expect to be rubbish, but recently-published books from big, reputable publishers. i was reading (or trying to read) incognito: the secret lives of the brain by david eagleman from canongate. it's a good book, or should be. but it's peppered with typos, some of the illustrations are indecipherable because of the screen size and resolution, and the main text, footnotes and explanatory texts attached to illustrations run confusingly into one another. plus, like all kindle texts (i gather), it consistently turns dashes into hyphens which makes parentheses look like compound words. and when one of these (correctly or incorrectly) compounded words appears at the end of a line, the line is then not justifed, unlike the rest of the paragraph. its looks messy, it's not what the author intended and sometimes it is genuinely confusing. these are all errors which would be considered shoddy, embarrassing and unprofessional in a physical book. astonishingly you can see two of the faults (falsely compounded words and erratic justification) right here in the kindled first page of william boyd's ordinary thurnderstorms which amazon chose to use in its full page press advert.
on the other hand, my 7 year-old son, who is a reluctant reader, really likes it, so it can't be wholly evil.
these two (above) were wonderful (it's been especially good alternately reading about the thames then swimming in it which i do most days). also i have become addicted to this (below) which is enthralling in too many ways to mention. if you don't know it, have a look at the amazon page (here) which has more info than imdb but needs no spolier alert unlike the wikipedia page.
totally unable to write for the last few weeks after finishing the red house, so this is one of the things i've been doing instead.
(photo: sarah lee for the guardian)
so many things to write about recently (cy twombly, lucian freud, news international, mass murder in norway...) but it's this which has dragged me back to the keyboard; the way the government has used this french company to wash their hands of the dirty work of cutting the numbers of people claiming incapacity benefit. there are countless stories about the speed, shoddiness and hearltessness of the process itself, the numbers unjustly declared 'fit for work' and the effect this has had on vulnerable people. moreover, 39% of the claimants who appealed against decisions have won their cases at a cost of over £20 million to the taxpayer while the company itself suffers no penalty as a result.
more proof, if more proof were needed, that we are being governed by a group of ideologically driven liars and incompetents who have never been dependent on the services they are slashing and who are incapable of sympathising with those who are dependent on such services. more 'big society'...