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Costa de Oro

Being invited off on a family weekend holiday is always a pleasure but also slightly intimidating when it is only your second day and everything is still new.  I had no idea where we were going but welcomed the opportunity for some rural exploration.

After an exciting introduction to Filipino road use and then getting stuck in a tunnel (thanks to world championship skateboarding, on Easter Saturday on a busy road, no less) that was reminiscent of some sort of zombie film, it was with great relief that we hit the coast.

With a fleet of three boats, packed with people ( as well as more awaiting our arrival) and supplies it was a steady voyage along, around a point and then it was patient gazing time, trying to pick out all the features such as banana boats (great fun by the way) and places to buy a cool drink.

Despite a massive building overlooking everything, Costa de Oro still looked lovely.  We were located a short bridge away from the pool and sea with plenty of greenery and rooms. Sleeping in a tent was my destiny which was fine by me as I was anticipating my first night looking up at the Southern night sky. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 05/06/2017 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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A Dance to the Music of Time: Autumn – Anthony Powell

Continuing the chronicles of life experience via narrator Nicholas Jenkins, this spoiler free review focuses on books seven to nine of the series: The Valley of Bones, The Soldier’s Art, and The Military Philosophers.

Obligatory warning to those people who feel it necessary to pick up a series at the half way point for reasons only known to them: whilst not spoiling anything of these or previous books, if you do like what you read, start with the Spring books as the Autumn omnibus will be pretty impenetrable at this point to newcomers, who will lack the sense of nuance created in previous volumes.

This third mini trilogy in greater narrative is another 720 page tome which is a joy to spend time with.  By now its obvious that I love this masterwork otherwise I wouldn’t still be endeavouring to carry on but the more I engage with the characters, the richer the books become.  As with the previous books the reader is in for a treat, discovering and rediscovering characters full of wit, eccentricity and intricacy.

Another phase of life begins anew for Jenkins et al. and the effects of the war lead to some unexpected changes in familiar personalities, whilst exploring the impact of some exiting characters.  The impact of the second world war is far-reaching not just in geographical and emotional ways but also to the shaking up of social class structure.  This book is one of acute change on all sides.

In this modern world of ours where everybody wants to talk (or shout) about themselves, it is refreshing to find a narrator who reveals little of himself throughout the books and focuses on what is going on around him. Whilst he retains the same detachedness that has seen him through school to this point there is now, more than ever, a justifiable sense of experienced world-weariness.  The books he name checks – most noticeably Proust and to a lesser extent Balzac – give a tantalising hint to the man behind the narrative voice and the author himself.

There are the usual slew of new characters introduced and getting to know them counteracts the very real boredom of the war as seen from the backwaters and offices of the UK.  This dullness of duty is offset by Powell’s wonderful prose, it is rich in both depth and message and gives the right amount of balance to delivering bright spots in what is a very downbeat (to say the least) time in history.  Few authors would be able to be as precise and delicate in this depiction. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/06/2017 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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Sunset Satisfaction

Wandering around the curve of the coast, away from the Costa de Oro beach resort (photos of that up next post or the one after), jumping over rocks, it was my first chance to see a sunset in the Southern Hemisphere.  This excitement was only slightly tempered by all the rubbish that had been dumped at this beautiful spot.

There was a sense of calm, away from the beach goers and a pleasant silence as we perched on one of the many angular rocks.  The whole place was ours for the moment.

There was some excitement when we thought the sun would sink between the islands but it veered off as the sun usually does, which is of course what we all know causes global warming. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 31/05/2017 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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Travel, Embryos and Brandy

Being curiously relaxed about undertaking such a long journey is certainly not the typical British state when just about to go about a holiday.  Most of the time it takes us a day or two to get over the stress of travelling but such was my whimsical mood that I started to ponder (in Leicester, no less) why nobody really talks about or even notices weathervanes anymore.  It seems strange when so many are created in such an arty way.

The view from my adopted home, with a special cameo from my drying towel.

Even the prominent display of the book The Crash Detectives (replete with an aeroplane and separate flaming wing falling off on the cover) in the expectedly poor excuse for an airport bookshop couldn’t dampen my ‘enthusiasm’ for a 14 hour flight.  My mind was well and truly blown to experience Philippine Airlines, who board the passengers at the back first, we were all seated in about ten minutes, much more efficient and professional than the other way…Delta Airlines I’m looking at you.

Planes are always interesting, the mishmash of emotions you see people going through; those going on holiday, coming back from holiday, the grind of work trips, the back packers off for months at a time.  Each one has a fascinating story to tell no doubt, not that anybody was particularly willing to talk with the length of the flight and I had my book my book to read so priorities… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/05/2017 in The Philippines, Travel

 

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Spring in the Step

Spring has finally sprung today and in a glorious way!

Over the last few months I have randomly decided to sit and read a few pages of whichever book I was at the time reading, just to gauge how soon I will be able to do it for a sustained period outdoors.  Today would have been perfect for that, had I remembered my book.

Still, it was a nice to see people sitting out on the grass and all the benches full of too and a gorgeous blue sky to daydream with.  I also took great delight in looking down. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 15/03/2017 in Travel

 

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Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men – Elliot Liebow

thecornerThe first edition of Tally’s Corner, a sociological classic selling more than one million copies, was the first compelling response to the culture of poverty thesis-that the poor are different and, according to conservatives, morally inferior-and alternative explanations that many African-Americans are caught in a tangle of pathology owing to the absence of black men in families. The debate has raged up to the present day. Yet Liebow’s shadow theory of values-especially the values of poor, urban, black men-remains the single most parsimonious account of the reasons why the behavior of the poor appears to be at odds with the values of the American mainstream.

While Elliot Liebow’s vivid narrative of “street-corner” black men remains unchanged, the new introductions to this long-awaited revised edition bring the book up to date. Wilson and Lemert describe the debates since 1965 and situate Liebow’s classic text in respect to current theories of urban poverty and race. They account for what Liebow might have seen had he studied the street corner today after welfare has been virtually ended and the drug economy had taken its toll. They also take stock of how the new global economy is a source of added strain on the urban poor. Discussion of field methods since the 1960s rounds out the book’s new coverage.

I first became aware of this book through reading the excellent The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighbourhood; which would eventually form the bedrock of so many storylines in The Wire.  In many ways that book is the perfect follow-up to Tally’s Corner, which in itself is a dynamic study of relationships in poorer neighbourhoods and their place in wider society.

This seminal work focuses on a cross-section of a Washington DC street corner society (poor African-American men who work only intermittently if at all) and the local environs.  It gives the reader a glimpse into a different world, where the choices both men and women make have come about through the struggle against poverty through generations. It’s a world where different rules apply exclusively to them no matter how absurd some will appear to outsiders.

It is thus, a book that rewards reading and learning not so much with pleasure as with the painful recognition that American race troubles remain so stubbornly at the center of social and economic life.

The above quote underlines the lack of understanding still prevailing all these years on, or perhaps the lack of interest in solving the problems that affect us all in some way.  Focussing on the men – who pass mostly under the radar – and their relationships – both work and family – the reader is given an intimate portrait into the life of the time. The cast is fairly sizeable and diverse and all the stories are equally fascinating of challenging in different ways. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 05/03/2017 in Sociology

 

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Four Days in January: A Letter to Jillsan – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

letteringThis is a modern tale, a journey of the heart, a road back, revisiting many cities and enduring Eastern and Western sentiments to light and lighten our understanding of life’s fleeting appearance.

It is a way of honouring the life of a loved one, to tell a personal story that reflects the shared, universal truth of the silence of loss from Kakimoto to Goethe and beyond.

Four Days in January is a beautifully told, deeply moving and poignant letter of loss, yet also the celebration of the life of a loved one through allegory, music, poetry and personal records.

Told in letter-form, Four Days in January records the story of two lovers and their lives through marriage and parenthood following his diplomatic career spent in different parts of the world, and the role and dedication of the diplomat’s wife.

Here is a very open volume that offers an array of inspirational thoughts for anyone facing loss and bereavement.

Having read most of Mr Jørgensen’s other books this one, whilst no less readable was an altogether different beast. It is a meditation on life as well as loss.  A union of two coming together to live as one, of a love that really shines through, a life lived fully but also a statement on the cruelty of having it cut short.

The beginning takes us through the unfolding tragedy of a life suddenly declining. It is told in an unflinching way and it moved this reader immensely.  Despite reading this book in January, I know that the opening will be the best one I read all year, which is saying something as I continue to amass great literature.

This personal final letter to his love is an intimate portrait, delicately penned, a chronicle of a shared existence, told through a number of key vignettes.  What makes this an intensely moving piece of work is that it is real life, good and bad things happen but it is a reminder to appreciate it every day for what it is.  Even the most mundane of times can become something beautiful when viewed the right way. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 23/02/2017 in Autobiography, Life, Memoir

 

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