Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2018

Somewhere to come from

Gool Peran Lowen, chaps. That is to say, happy St Piran's Day. The day when the Cornish diaspora gets a bit of a lump in the throat for the old country, and dreams longingly of sheltered coves, forbidding moors and frankly ludicrous hills; as well as precise rules about what goes first on a scone, an interest in rugby that borders on the unhealthy and a good old dose of casual racism (okay, not quite as nostalgic about the last bit).

I have lived in Ormskirk, Lancashire, for over twenty years now. I lived in Cornwall for about seven. But when asked where I'm from (which happens quite a lot, a southern accent, amazingly, still being something of a source of wonder in these parts, even if I do find myself saying "lad" at the end of sentences), the answer is immediate. Cornwall. Followed immediately by the question, what are you doing up here, then?

Well, I'm not about to go into the reasons behind that (largely because they would require a degree of navel-gazing wh…

Book #4 4321: Paul Auster

It would be reasonable to say that when you set yourself the challenge of reading a certain amount of books in a limited time frame, it would make sense to pick a number of slim volumes to give yourself something of a flying start. However, this 1000 page monster was a Christmas present, so it seemed slightly perverse to leave it sat on the shelf purely because of some daft task I've set myself (and also to be slightly missing the point of the whole exercise), so in the dog days of January I embarked on the exercise.

The premise is an intriguing one: the different paths our lives may take. It follows four versions of the same boy's life: Archie Ferguson, growing up four times in mid 20th century America. The conceit being that his immigrant grandfather had picked the wrong name when arriving off the boat. It speaks to the what ifs we ask ourselves, what if I'd stayed with her, what if I'd gone to x Uni, what if I'd taken that job offer, what if I'd actually tak…

The point of it all

If you cast your mind back to the start of the year, you will note that I made a bit of a to-do about why I set myself a bunch of arbitrary goals and targets. I mounted a relatively spirited defence of what could seem to the less charitable observer to be either a box ticking exercise or an act of monstrous self-aggrandisement, well, as spirited as my jaded and haggard middle-aged sensibilities can manage. And so I thought it high time to swing by these parts and offer further explanation as to the point of these various tasks.

The eagle eyed amongst you will note that, after a flying start, the reading of books seems to have ground to a halt. Not actually the case, but unfortunately for getting the numbers up, one of my Christmas presents was Paul Auster's 4321, which clocks in at a thousand pages, nearly done, (and a review will be up shortly), so it's probably a bit too early to draw any conclusions about that.

The birds though, goodness me. There's a lot to say about t…

Pics, or it didn't happen

I am not a man blessed with a great deal of what might be termed free time. I'm phrasing this carefully because I'm equally not a man who lives an onerous life. I work a 50 hour week, which, whilst a fair whack, also includes a lot of time stood about drinking coffee, writing menus and, most of the rest of the time, banging out plates of food, a process I find immensely enjoyable. Time at home is divided largely between hanging out with my children, again, not a task one could reasonably class as a bind; housework, which, as it comes under the banner of keeping everything on an even keel is generally something I approach zestily (and in the chastening knowledge that I maybe do about 30% of it, so best not to whinge, eh) and, every once in a while, doing a spot of this sort of thing.

Yes, dear reader. I fit you in when I can. I know this comes as a shock, and I'm sorry I had to tell you like this, but really, you must have known. Like an adulterous husband desperate to be c…

A 50 Book year #3: Arlington Park - Rachel Cusk

If the purpose of this exercise is in part to challenge myself to read stuff out of my comfort zone, then it certainly suceeded with this book. Rachel Cusk's novel is the story of the residents of an affluent suburb over the course of a single day. That is to say, it is the story of the female inhabitants, the husbands are otherworldly creatures, mostly discussed off screen aside from a couple of telling interventions.

This is an excellently written book. Cusk's prose style is vivid and poetic, though maybe a trifle overdone for my taste at times, but you're still in no doubt that you're in the hands of a writer who has an ear for a lyrical turn of phrase and excellent command of language. And the first chapter was something of a showstopper with Juliet, a teacher, seething with resentment at what her life could have been, reflecting on how her past glories have been subsumed by the greater glories of her husband, Benedict. In one particularly telling line she says &qu…

The point of arbitrary goals

I laughed at myself yesterday morning. You ridiculous man, I thought.

It was a dreich, bleak, January morning, the wind was bringing scuds of stinging rain flat across the west lancashire plain horizontally, so one half of your body got soaked. I was, naturally, out for a run, and then I saw some pheasants. Two cocks, jerking around a barren field. First of the year, I thought, and made a mental note to put them on the list.

Which is when I laughed at myself, the list. One of many. The run was on a list, too. Earlier on during the run I'd been thinking about the book I was reading. Also, on a list. Targets for the year. 200 bird species, 1500 miles and 50 books. Why does everything have to be a challenge? Why not just enjoy things for what they are: the beauty of two richly plumaged birds in an otherwise barren field, the pure physical pleasure of a long run, the fresh perspectives of an author new to me.

When I'd finished shaking my head at my inability to just enjoy the mome…

A 50 Book year #2: The Power, Naomi Alderman

I approached this book (a christmas present) with a degree of duniousness. I'm not really a fan of "what if" books, which can often seem as the author is too pleased to have thought of their central conceit, and forgotten to write a book to go with it, but Alderman here does something interesting with the genre - she's written a good old fashioned page turner.

The basic premise: that woman develop the power to generate electricity, becoming, at a stroke, far more dangerous than men, could have been the backdrop to a chaotic potboiler, with revolution almsot instananeous. But Alderman eases the idea along, positing a world where some parts descend to lawlessness but others continue, with only subtle shifts in power (there's a particularly good running gag about a pair of newscasters whose relationship evolves as The Power becomes a moving force in the world: ending with the irascible male half being replaced with a good looking young man "well, I wouldn't…

A 50 Book Year #1: Sweet Thursday

Like most relatively chaotic indiciduals who don't have a clue what they want out of life, I'm fond of setting myself an arbitrary challenge in a probably vain attempt to impose some order on my otherwise aimless existence. This year's is to get back in the habit of reading.

2017 was absolute mayhem for me, what with one thing and another, and my reading was pretty woeful (as was the writing), as I realised with horror when I came to do a few end of year lit quizzes and discovered that I was way off the pace (my crossword game has gone to shit, too). This needs rectifying, I thought, so, remembering a challenge last undertaken (and documented in these pages) before the birth of son #1 I set myself the task of getting through fifty books this year.

20 year old me would scoff at this meagre total. But 20 year old me was a useless chancer with far too much time on his hands, far less talent than he thought he had and a questionable attitude towards most things. These days I&#…

Jobs for the boys

I was going to write a lengthy piece about Toby Young's appointment to the Higher Education watchdog. There's plenty to get your teeth into. Young, a classic example of someone promoted far far beyond their ability due to being relatively well connected (Young "writes" for Spectator under editorship of Boris Johnson. Johnson's brother appoints Young to government role. Johnson and Gove immediately tweet their approval, just....eurgh) getting the job over people who actually have higher education experience ("he will bring independence" says Johnson, his ex colleague and brother of the bloke who hired him).

But then I just didn't, frankly, I didn't have the energy.

Because it's astonishing there's even an argument about this, it is such a palpably bad idea (Young has spent the day busily deleting tweets, most of which refer to breasts) and so clearly a case of a group of braying private school dickheads scratching each others backs that i…

Not a post

I woke this morning and had a strong urge not to write a blog post. Or, for that matter, anything.

This isn't precisely correct. It would be more accurate to say I had an urge to write something, but felt like a pillock for having that urge. Each January, as I emerge from the cheffing black hole which is December I realise, groaning that all the good intentions I started the previous January with have evaporated like campaign promises. Keen students of the Fallaize writing process will have noted, down the years, a pronounced upswing in activity in the January of each year, followed by a pathetic dribbling off as I fail to keep up with even the frankly modest targets that I set myself.

So my thinking went thus: oh God no, not that cliche again

No, it's too obvious. New Year, more blog posts.

You know you won't keep it up.

But then...

If I don't write anything at all, I won't even have the stuff I get done in Januray, when I have good intentions, to look back on.