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Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce

toms_midnight_gardenThirteen! proclaimed the clock, and then stopped striking.  Tom’s mind gave a jerk: had it really struck thirteen?

For Tom – angry and alone – the stroke of thirteen brings an escape to another time.

A magical, secret time and place, where friendships await and nothing is as it seems…

Look at this particularly fantastic cover it just screams out ‘read me’, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to do just that.  It wasn’t until I’d read the ending that I realised I had actually watched the wonderful BBC version in the 80′s, back when kids TV was made to be sinister and engrossing.  I may have to do a post on that….

I have long been a firm believer that silence challenges the reader’s imagination and as ever I chose that medium in which to immerse myself in this wonderful book, a masterpiece the cover says and in its genre it most certainly is that.

The book involves our titular hero Tom and revolves around a midnight garden (also titular), I know you had all ascertained that (as my readers are the most intelligent readers out there) but I am loath to say too much more other than that this is a beautiful book with elements of history, a coming of age story and even a bit of love.

Exploration, adventure and imagination are the key things for a book enjoyed by the young, if that can be combined with a sense of freedom, timelessness and an element of mystery, then you have something like this book which is very well written and slowly draws you in.  The pacing is constant and gradual, never rushed and allows enough time to see the beautiful characteristics of nature and feel the anguish and wonder of our hero in his struggles…okay as a cynical adult probably a little less than a child would but I am working on my emotional side… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 23/04/2014 in Children's Literature

 

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An Unexpected Lift

It has recently come to my attention that you haven’t lived unless you have been to the Fork Lift Truck Heritage Centre at The Midland Railway in Butterly.  My friends Dean and Nat took me there, for all those reasons that people venture to such places over Easter and other public holidays.  Namely it’s something different, aids recovery of the night before and doesn’t cost a penny.

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This Easter weekend has had a decidedly retro theme to it, it began when entering a valley and realising for the first time since circa 2003 that  I haven’t had to actively seek a mobile phone signal.  I had to resort to all those old tricks for getting that elusive and solitary bar of communication heaven.  I tried shaking the phone vigorously, lifting it high up whilst standing on tip toes and my personal favourite – which oddly always did the trick for me back in the day – of standing on one leg.

I also found out that the floor of D and N’s house has a subtle, in fact almost imperceptible slope so when I walk to the living room window I felt little, it gave me an insight into how the short half live…Rounding off my retro indoor musings was the totally rogue thought ‘whatever happened to hover crafts?’ Back in the day they were all the rage but since Jackie Chan’s film Rumble in the Bronx I haven’t seen any mention of this form of transport. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 21/04/2014 in Life, Travel

 

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West of the West Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

51So-GksydL._Nils-Johan Jørgensen is a master teller of folk tales for children which draw on myth and legend from cultures around the world. His first collection; North of the North Wind included four stories based on Nordic fairy tales, set in curious dreamscapes. His second, East of the East Wind, incorporate oriental themes and lore to create beguiling modern-day fables. West of the West Wind continues the series in the same tradition, featuring three beautifully illustrated stories; The Library, Wolves and the Silence of the Sail. This time, our heroes face adversarial situations and malevolent foes which challenge every bit of their strength and courage. Dark and foreboding, these stories will appeal to older children’s love of the bizarre and sinister.

For me Norway and nature are synonymous, situated at the edge of things.  This mystical place conjures up frozen wastes, surrealness and a certain mournfulness that is at once as pleasing as it is anguishing. Michael Avery’s art work which accompanies each story complements this feeling and is wonderfully rendered.  The pencil drawings show the contrast of nature and humans vividly.

Former diplomat Nils-Johan Jørgensen has successfully managed to combine these traits into his latest collection of stories in a way that will appeal to both adults and children.  With its focus on the human ideals and the misdirection that life constantly throws at us.

The first story is set in World War II, following a boy attempting to stop books being burned and focusses on the themes of confusion, fear, censorship and loss but also exudes a love of words and thoughts upon the legacy of humanity.  A constant running throughout the book is that circumstances are not always as they appear to be, preconceptions are usually proved wrong in a gentle way, reminding us of the flaws of preconception in our minds and lives. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 18/04/2014 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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Reeling You In?

After last post’s brief film review I have been galvanised with ideas to start reviewing film and TV shows, not the popular and famous ones that we have all heard of though.  Many people review those and as someone who lives in old books, the topical doesn’t suit me as well as others.

I am more than tempted to start taking on this idea to add into the mix with all the other stuff I do because when not reading my leisure time is spent in the solitary pursuit of watching things.  I am a man of simple pleasures…give me a tree (with branches), a semi flat piece of ground under said branches and some sunshine and I will be happy until dark.

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I will probably review some new films if and when finances allow but really it’s an excuse to eat more popcorn than is healthy whether I am in the cinema or not.  Really I suppose I think it is best to canvass you the reader, is this something you’d want to see in amongst the usual words and thoughts? Bearing in mind that a lot of the stuff may be quite obscure although there will be a smattering of familiar faces easily available on Netflix and such sites.

 
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Posted by on 15/04/2014 in Blogging, Films, TV

 

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The Raid 2 and Cinema Experience

Yesterday I went to the cinema, a rare event for me as I tend to watch my films in the company of two or fewer people, in fact mostly just by myself.  Having said that every so often a film comes along that demands to be experienced on the big screen..The Lord of the Rings were three such films with the epic scope to the fighting and the realisation of the world that it raised the benchmark for epic films.

Despite all that I do like the cinema with that sensory deprivation that gives an edge of danger and the unknown to what you are experiencing. The truly great films take you away to another world or time and it’s an amazing feeling to discover that piece of art which allows you to forget you are in a room full of other people and just be totally focused in that moment.

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Although multiplex chains have become commonplace and make the world of quality cinema seem almost vestigial these days, (fans of independent cinema I salute you), there is no shame in giving the corporate suits some of your hard-earned money if the film demands it.  Ignoring the shamefully expensive food and drink as well as the people talking about how amazing Saw 26 was, it is somewhere I perhaps need to start going to more often.

The film I went to see was The Raid 2, a film in an all together different category from your average action flick. It’s a fantastically colossal action/thriller martial arts film which takes choreographed combat to the limits.  The sequel to The Raid, imaginatively titled The Raid 2: Berendal is one heck of a film…for those of you not familiar with the first film it had a simple plot of taking down a gang leader that didn’t get in the way of pure action, it’s a pacy film with really exhilarating to watch fight scenes which get longer as the film goes on.  The second film builds on this with even more style than the first without just rehashing the same film. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/04/2014 in Films

 

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Hot Air and a Partially Remembered Stair

Is it too early to have a beer at 10 in the AM…how early is too early? With everything pressing in my day completed by around 9AM, I have been spending quite a lot of the day indulging in listening to some loud music of days gone past…stuff that brings back the malleable miracle of memory that haunts us ( if we choose), or as in this case just serves to cycle up the good mood-a-tron which is located somewhere in my head.

Good moods are conducive to my thinking and probably explains why recently I have only been able to do book reviews and not look for inspiration in the wider world.  All this thinking had me in mind of my struggles for non book related posts and how things change in general.

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I remember once, going up to the roof of a church tower.  It was a classic accent with a spiral stone staircase, the type where you have to keep to the outside or risk slipping all the way back down.  At the time I was maybe 8 or 9 and it was an epic climb, going round and round the central column.  it was the return journey though that I am thinking of.  I had in my young and possibly sticky hands a balloon eraser that day.  If memory serves it was blue with bits of green, red and yellow on, a classic eraser then.  I don’t remember much more about it than that.

I dropped this eraser and couldn’t find it on the darkened stair, I knew roughly where it fell but all I was rewarded with was severely dusty hands for my hunting troubles.  Now I am 32 and thinking back to it, I am struck by the image of this balloon, that ultimate symbol of human freedom to be blown about willy-nilly that is now consigned to the dark begrimed and  forgotten confines of a seldom visited place. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 11/04/2014 in Life, Melancholy, My Writings, Poetry

 

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Deja-View

Pottering through any book shop and looking at the bestseller lists, it’s not uncommon to see new book covers aping previous popular books, for example all the ‘erotica books are done in the style of Fifty Shades these days.  The same thing happened with the Da Vinci Code as well as others I would have noticed had I bothered to look at best sellers.  I do recall Salmon Fishing in the Yemen spawning a few as well.

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It is thanks to the wonderful Private Eye magazine and in particular the infrequent Bookalikes column that has encouraged me to bring this travesty of lazy publishers to your attention.  All it takes is the effort to employ some artists, recognise that people don’t want another clone of books they have already read and some original works…it’s not difficult to reinvigorate the poor selection of bestsellers out there. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 08/04/2014 in Lists/Ephemera

 

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