Woken Up

I recently had a moan about all the meaningless (and prolific) ‘inspirational’ posts that clog my Facebook feed, when all I want to do is have a quick and peaceful nosy into what people are doing in their lives.  I’m sure some find such slogans helpful and positive but stop to give even a brief thought to the actual content and it quickly becomes irritating.

After posting a somewhat, ‘grumpy’ status about the situation, (and having no one really react which, perhaps, tells its own story) I came across another nettlesome post on Instagram, that was originally a Tweet.  I’m assuming some of you came across this statement over the last week or so,

You’re not well read if all you read is white authors. 

It didn’t take long to analyse the flaw in that statement.  Whilst it is probably (hopefully) a well-meaning encouragement to people to read widely, the stench of identity politics is overwhelming. Substitute the word white for fantasy, people of colour (or your group of choice), gay, women, or men, and the point could still be taken.

White is the word that will get the most traction in terms of comments though and is most likely the reason behind the wording which will guarantee the fifteen minutes of internet viral fame so craved.  On reflection it strikes me as lazy, picking an easy target. Like Trump or George W. Bush jokes back in the day, for example, it lacks finesse and plays only to the easily pleased crowd. Continue reading “Woken Up”

Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Here is a new and challenging appraisal of Norway, the author’s country of birth, that redefines its history, culture and heritage -‘after Ibsen – and looks, with a degree of ominous foreboding, at its future and the future of Europe.  Ex-diplomat and widely published author Jørgensen explores an array of topics, from Norway’s Viking pat, its pursuit of independence, the German occupation, its politics and cultural heritage, the defence of NATO, the relationship with Europe, and the challenge of Russia, concluding with ‘self-image and reality’.  In Northern Light, the author challenges many existing perceptions and stereotypes, making this an essetial reference for anyone interested in Norway and its people, international affairs, European history and its cultural legacy.

Back with another book by blog favourite Nils-Johan Jørgensen, Northern Light, much like his other nonfiction books, An Image of the Times and Four Days in January, is an insightful look at his chosen topic, which in this case is a well-rounded, authoritative insight into his country of birth. One that is not too well known on the international stage, especially considering the dramatics of other countries, but is nonetheless worthy of thorough investigation.

After the Vikings, and the discovery of America, the history books tend to go quiet when it comes to Norway, and Scandinavia in general, up until the second world war in the case of the UK education system.  This book allows for the discovery, or rediscovery, of Norway’s role in such diverse events as the Napoleonic Wars and its relationship with Russia, a nation whose shadow looms large with aggression over the whole arctic region.

A country of mystery with the Aurora Borealis, the picturesque fjords, as well as its international exploration, and being the so-called best place to live, there is so much more to uncover.  Not least its inhabitants attitudes of both isolationism yet at the same time the wish to embrace the world. Continue reading “Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

Shining a Light on Things.

Recently, I had the good fortune to yet again be sent a book from blog favourite Nils-Johan Jørgensen.  Having commenced reading briefly (due to last week being the busiest week for the university), I’m already enjoying  this a great deal and learning a lot about Norway and its history, which can only be a good thing, I do hate to be uninformed.  Full review – and others – coming soon.

Opening the Door

With five weeks of training completed at the Open University – the main reason for my sparse posting of late – I can finally turn my attention to showcasing all the awesome free stuff that you can get your hands on courtesy of the O.U..  This week it’s something mentioned previously on this blog and frequently engages me through on my breaks and before work starts.

Where I work, one part of the Edifice that is the Open University.

OpenLearn  is a resource I had spent a bit of time with before I started this job and now I recommend it to everyone.  The site offers courses, downloads, videos, and up coming programmes with the BBC.  Each course is an extract from our degree modules, and with almost 1000 samples here you can indulge in many various learning exercises.

There are courses for everyone over such varied fields as Languages, Nature & Environment , Money & Business, and my personal favourite History & the Arts, which has plenty of literary goodness but never fails to entertain with a speculative punt either.

The first course I took was Aberdulais Falls: A Case Study in Welsh Heritage. I had never previously considered the logistics of how the National Trust runs its sites and the impact on the local community, and I finished thoroughly entertained and educated on the subject.  Since then anything goes in terms of course choice now. Continue reading “Opening the Door”

Where the Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Rabindranath Tagore

 

I had a whole mini essay on why I like this poem, sadly it got lost and  way too much time and effort went into it the first time for me to wish to write it again.  I’m sure you’ll be thinking along the same lines as myself being the esteemed and intelligent readers that you are.

*Image found at Pixabay

 

No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez

Fridays are different. Every other day of the week, the Colonel and his ailing wife fight a constant battle against poverty and monotony, scraping together the dregs of their savings for the food and medicine that keeps them alive. But on Fridays the postman comes – and that sets a fleeting wave of hope rushing through the Colonel’s ageing heart.

For fifteen years he’s watched the mail launch come into harbour, hoping he’ll be handed an envelope containing the army pension promised to him all those years ago. Whilst he waits for the cheque, his hopes are pinned on his prize bird and the upcoming cockfighting season. But until then the bird – like the Colonel and his wife – must somehow be fed. . .

No one writes like Márquez either, so after years away from his works – apologies for such an oversight in my reading schedule – even one of his minor tales feels like a privilege to read.  This succinct story is packed full of melancholy, humanity and wonderful writing, each line seem precisely weighted for maximum enjoyment.

Waiting plays a big part throughout these pages, life is staid and conventional, poised but never moving on whilst all around ages towards the inevitable.  Will that pension ever arrive to allow living to progress again?  The limbo is palpable.

The unfair nature of so many circumstances in the novella are nothing new, especially those who despite fighting in wars are the first to be forgotten when it comes to what they are owed – even though they are afforded respect.  Márquez, however, adds to this with his sense of the bigger picture, from the inane bureaucracy of governments, the sense or lack of loyalty from neighbours, to the sheer brutal chances of life choices. Continue reading “No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez”

The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast. Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris. This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work. Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

After reading two volumes of Garai’s short stories this is the first novel by the author, once again the focus is on the troubled times of his characters, and how they respond to the problems presented.  The down to earth approach to telling a story gives it the edge over those authors that attempt to force an emotional response from the reader with unneeded flourishes.

Taking place in Paris – a source of artistic and literary inspiration for many throughout the ages – I was pleased to see that both made appearances within the story, whilst Garai’s eye for natural beauty – and degradation – in the often ignored urban areas helps layer a further feeling of the city’s atmosphere and depth.

The titular character Jeremy is interesting in his introspective, self-examining ways.  His solitary approach to life – somewhat enforced thanks to circumstances – gives him the drive to fix things, even if they don’t always work out in the way he intended. Continue reading “The Bridge of Little Jeremy – Indrajit Garai”