Animal Farm

Animals are great and even if I wasn’t a fan, living with a horde of the critters would certainly change my mind.  The kittens have been spoken about elsewhere on this blog before, my favourite of which is still Mr Boffles:

Here he is, attempting to line up with mum Alut and uncle Rambo, in what I assume is a homage to the opening scene of the magnificent 2001: A Space Odyssey.  As mentioned before, he enjoys gangster movies and the music of Louis Armstrong.  Since then he feels confident enough to run at Rambo and be mercilessly pawed at in return, as well as meowing at Die Hard 3, dramatic stunts are expected from this little one.

Our latest new edition – a dog this time, just to mix things up – which arrived yesterday is this little lady, Rexie:

Having spent little over a day with her, I can confirm she likes the taste of slippers, nibbling Rambo’s tale and disappearing at various times to make me worried that she has wandered off somewhere.  Now that we are up to six animals, life is getting more interesting both in and out of the house.


Posted by on 21/03/2018 in Life, Photography


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Bookshops – Jorge Carrión

Why do bookshops matter? How do they filter our ideas and literature? In this inventive and highly entertaining extended essay, Jorge Carrion takes his reader on a journey around the world, via its bookshops. His travels take him to Shakespeare & Co in Paris, Wells in Winchester, Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Librairie des Colonnes in Tangier, the Strand Book Store in New York and provoke encounters with thinkers, poets, dreamers, revolutionaries and readers.

Bookshops is the travelogue of a lucid and curious observer, filled with anecdotes and stories from the universe of writing, publishing and selling books. A bookshop in Carrion’s eyes never just a place for material transaction; it is a meeting place for people and their ideas, a setting for world changing encounters, a space that can transform lives.

Written in the midst of a worldwide recession, Bookshops examines the role of these spaces in today’s evershifting climate of globalisation, vanishing high streets, e-readers and Amazon. But far from taking a pessimistic view of the future of the physical bookshop, Carrion makes a compelling case for hope, underlining the importance of these places and the magic that can happen there. A vital manifesto for the future of the traditional bookshop, and a delight for all who love them.

This was picked up on a whim when it first came out. Suckered into it, I’ll admit, by rave reviews from the media. which were hurriedly found on the trusty phone whilst protectively holding the last copy close.  This sounds like it should be a good book to fuel the passion of a reader for (more) books and the shops they find themselves in. Sadly I found myself underwhelmed after a couple of chapters.

It is an interesting read in parts, celebrating bookshops is a great idea of course but the disconnect for this reader came partly from the lack of small bookshops, they are forgotten with all the razzmatazz of their bigger cousins.  Showcasing well known or popular bookshops is good but the lesser known and equally (arguably more interesting) smaller shops would create, not only a nice contrast but are also something that more people can relate to, especially as they have their own charm and mysticism.

As this is a translation, it’s understandable that some of the phrases seem a bit out of place, however quite a lot of it feels like notes taken and left in the final draft.  There are many occasions when authors, shops and subjects are touched upon in the same paragraph with bewildering speed and change of subject.  It’s fairly sprawling in its name dropping both of obscure and common authors, publishers and so on but it feels like a very mixed bag overall.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 19/03/2018 in Essays, Travel


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Working the Space

At the moment I am attempting to be a lot more proactive with my writing as you may have noticed, although today is one of those days when I want to post but writing feels like a bit of a challenge today so here’s a look at the workspace I fashioned for myself.

From left to right:

  • A Test of Time is the latest book I am reading, which is a look at the Egyptian chronology, a rethink and an attempt to sync it up with Biblical archaeology.  I’m also reading The Singularity Wheel, kindly sent over by Mike (see last blog post) as well, to keep my days varied.
  • To the right is my Green Apple notebook which contains my notes for a novel, unlike past efforts this time it is not only going well but in an order hitherto unseen in past attempts.
  • In front of these is my Tagalog notebook, in which I am writing words lists and attempting to get down the grammatical rules so ease me into this foreign language which doesn’t (thank goodness) have masculine and feminine words to remember.
  • The laptop which, other than helping realise these blog posts also keeps me up-to-date with all the big news, like the football scores, which is a welcome tonic to the morning’s TV catch up BBC Worldwide and CNN Philippines.
  • Lastly, behind my coffee cup which is the best jump-start for the day is my trusty notebook which has been to three continent with me and is rapidly filling up with all my notes for reviews and various other blog posts.
  • You may have noticed 10 month old Rambo (guess who named him) who when not happily biting various items of footwear is keeping alert for any move made for food.

It’s amazing what a simple zone for working can achieve, especially when one is in the mood for work, which it seems, I now am.


Posted by on 15/03/2018 in Blogging, Life


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The Eye-Dancers – Michael S. Fedison

Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd. None of them remembers coming here. And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen. Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s. There are no cell phones, no PCs. Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales. But it isn’t. It’s all too real. Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes. The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here. She is their only hope. And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.

The Eye-Dancers, is a story of friendship that has a great nostalgic vibe, bearing similarities in feeling to such coming of age stories like Stephen King’s The Body (the film being titled Stand By Me), mixed in with a classic sci-fi, à la The Twilight Zone.  Both of which infuse the prose with their respective flavours and make this story extremely enjoyable to read.

There are plenty of real world YA issues covered here, from self-doubt to broken families, all without getting too heavy.  It’s the mixture of the real life and fantastical, and the way Fedison balances it, that is a real strength for this book. The mystery itself is not as clear-cut or clichéd as adult readers long familiar with the genre may guess at when reading the blurb, which is a relief and not at all surprising, considering the author’s blog posts, the link of which you will find at the bottom of this post. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 12/03/2018 in Children's Literature, Fiction, Sci-Fi


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Reading out Loud #2

The second entry in a (very) occasional series of words that caught and held my attention, that are well worth sharing.

“Human relationships flourish and decay, quickly and silently, so that those concerned scarcely know how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind them have become.”  – Anthony Powell – A Question of Upbringing

“He reached for his pocket, and found there, only reality” – Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment

“Proof is what lies at the heart of maths, and is what marks it out from other sciences. Other sciences have hypotheses that are tested against experimental evidence until they fail, and are overtaken by new hypotheses. In maths, absolute proof is the goal, and once something is proved, it is proved forever, with no room for change.” – Simon Singh – Fermat’s Last Theorem Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 08/03/2018 in Book Memories, Lists/Ephemera


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Posh Nosh

On my travels I came across this wonderful Swiss restaurant, Vieux Chalet.  Set back far from Manila, in the hills of Antipolo, this charming place brings a slice of Europe to the locals and has a wonderful ambience and setting.  Outside there is a lovely atmosphere of silence, only broken by the sound of nature.  Inside friendly hosts and relaxing music compliment the wonderful food and intimate surroundings, the Beef Filet Mignon is definitely recommended.

There is another reason to head over to the restaurant and that is to photograph the skyline of Manila.  Sadly it was too challenging for my photography skills and the scope of the phone camera too.  The openness of the view is impressive, especially during the sunset and reminds the diner that it is good to be out of busy city and appreciating life in peace.

Then there was this amazing doggie, named Beast. He happily and patiently accepted all of our attentions despite the heat, which must be intolerable in the summer. He was last seen ambling off into the distance to where, we were told by the owners, he knows of a cooler place to rest.  That ambling backside was perhaps the most enduring image of an altogether wonderful experience.


Posted by on 07/03/2018 in The Philippines, Travel


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A Month in the Country – J. L. Carr

A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future. Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years.

It’s been an utter pleasure rereading this splendid short book, heading back to 1920’s Oxgodby and its five hundred year old church painting. Reacquainting myself with the inhabitants, and a way of life lost to time reminded me of Carr’s evocative prose and the beauty of the English countryside.

This is a great story to get lost in – one which demands repeat readings be savoured – it really accentuates the little things in life, those wondrous things that surround us, yet seem hidden in plain sight until viewed in hindsight. There is a comforting sense of isolation here, a total delight to be immersed in.

The plot revolves around the methodical and gradual uncovering of a medieval wall painting and this also extends to the personalities of the  people.  As time moves on there is a slow exposing of both, as well as the social life of the village.  All this is played out in such a relaxed manner that the under the surface busyness is very subtly played out.

Birkin’s love for mechanisms and how the parts slot together are a fitting metaphor for how he sees the community and also in a literal sense of the time. There is a feeling of being on the cusp of changes in his life, in the rhythms of countryside and nature and how the industrial age is really starting to impact the isolated countryside.  It’s pleasurably melancholy and allows readers of any age to feel the loss of what once was. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 05/03/2018 in Fiction


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