Sorry for my absence, the Lacers’ have been on ‘holiday’. I say ‘holiday’ as it’s only at my dad’s in North Wales but that’s about as much holiday as we can afford these days. So be prepared for a very long catch up post, including Doctor Who (series 4, episode 1 spoilers), a Londoner faces a snow storm, down sizing, fussy eaters, The Sunday Salon, overcooked veg, soft toys, Dexter, freezing at the zoo, more books, the London mayoral race, Russell T Davies, a train trip and shouting at the telly.
Anyway we travelled up on Saturday, after the usual morning of packing everything including the kitchen sink and then trying to squeeze it into the car.
Squeezing everything into the car (and onto my lap)
An uneventful (bar a hair greying incident on the motorway just outside Oxford involving a car whose break lights weren’t working (not ours) and the sincere thankfulness that our car has ABS) if very long journey. Poor Boy Lacer hates being in the car, as soon as he realised what Saturday’s plans were he stood on the pavement outside the house screaming. Boy Lacer, as I’ve said many time before has the physique of a little miniature rugby player, short legs and a very broad chest and the broad chest means that it’s a bit of a squeeze in the car seat, so generally when he wasn’t asleep he wasn’t happy.
We eventually made it to dad’s, actually in time for tea and in time to watch Doctor Who, we didn’t think we’d see that. Ok, not ideal watching circumstances, I was supervising the consumption of pasta by small people at the time (that jarred pasta sauce Delia keeps going on about, actually not bad) but I managed to watch most of it. I thought it was a little slow going at the beginning (Doctor Who, not the pasta) but it soon warmed up to be absolutely excellent, I loved the scene where Donna and the Doctor finally meet again, very well done and very funny, specially when they cotton on that they’ve been spotted and the Matron goes “Don’t let me interrupt”. I thought that Catherine Tate was actually rather good, I couldn’t stand the character of Donna in the Christmas special but I think I’ll warm to her. I loved the scene where Donna is begging the Doctor to let her come with him and the Doctor says that he just wants “a mate” as his last companion kind of fell in love with him (and there he was in the last series obviously pretending that he hadn’t realised) but talking about companions, oh my god when the blonde haired lady turned out to be Rose! I knew obviously that Rose was going to be in this series but I had assumed that it would be just at the end and ooh she didn’t look pleased did she? Overall though as I predicted from the trailers I’d seen I thought the little baby adipose aliens were very cute and I loved the shots of them going up to their mother ship, very Close Encounters.
Boy Lacer had his first night in a ‘big boy bed’ as no way would he tolerate the travel cot now and he did rather well. Girl Lacer was right next to him and he had his Iggle Piggle, UpsyDaisy and obligatory copy of a Charlie and Lola book, so he was happy.
Although not too happy at 6am Sunday morning, he woke up early and probably didn’t know where he was, so he woke everyone else up to. Luckily though there was some early morning entertainment of a light blanket of snow, the most snow we’d seen all winter, so the kids had fun in the garden, specially Boy Lacer who last time we were here wouldn’t have been walking.
Other than that not much done on Sunday, a nice breakfast of proper bacon and sausages from the butcher. Without the great distractor of the internet (so 1980s) I actually felt the urge to write (been lacking that a bit recently) and rewoke an old children’s story that I had written two-thirds of a while ago and did a spot of editing. The story is based on my dad’s house and garden, which is a lovely old Victorian pile, so definitely more inspiration when I’m there.
As a distraction I walked into town on Sunday morning to get some supplies (aka coke and chocolate). Although it’d been snowing lightly all morning it wasn’t too bad but boy did I feel like a Londoner walking through the country lanesin my inappropriate shoes and loud blue and white Boden coat. It got colder and colder, so by the time I got out of the small local supermarket (which surprisingly this time had goats milk products, although only UHT goats milk, which we’d brought with us for Boy Lacer and which it turns out he hates) it was a full blown snow storm, cue Mrs. Lacer feeling even more inappropriately dressed.
Once I’d got back and defrosted, I spent the rest of the day reading in the true spirit of The Sunday Salon, okthe first thing I read was this month’s copy of Junior which I only succumbed to buying because it had a childrens’ book freebie. The rest of the magazine was the usual, there was an interesting article on ‘Life’s simpler pleasures’, about down sizing and the Compact Movement, something I’m increasingly interested in, living life more simply means more time, less expenditure and it’s better for the planet and I’m all for all three of those things. The article seemed a little out of place though in a magazine whose pages feature £105 kids designer jeans. However there was another interesting piece on a cookbook I hadn’t heard of before, ‘Deceptively Delicious’ by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, the Mrs. Seinfeld), a book of recipes where it seems you get your kids to eat their veg by sneaking in veg purees into more fussy child acceptable dishes, like oatmeal raisin cookies with banana and courgette and burgers with cauliflower. My kids, like a lot of kids are not good with veg, although thankfully good with fruit and I do worry about it, so I may go down this route as apparently sneaking veg purees into their food acclimatises their palate to the taste of the actual veg eventually, worth a try I think. I’m also trying the getting them to grow the veg this spring and summer, so a two pronged attack.
Then on to some actual reading, I’m still trying to clear through my ’to be read backlog’, I’vebeen a good girl and I haven’t actually brought a (fiction) book for over a month now, even though I was extremely tempted by the new Phillip Pullman novella in Borders the other day, heck when I was in Borders I was tempted by an awful lot of books (as usual) but like I say I’m controlling myself. So I’m now getting the dregs of my ‘to be read backlog’, basically books that have been brought for me and were not quite my taste or books I brought on a whim and shouldn’t have. Before the holiday I was reading a Karen Rose thriller, which I had received as a secret santa present and was so clichéd I was tempted to stop reading it within the first 20 pages, then the first bodies (or at least their effects) turned up and that piqued my interest. However it still wasn’t gripping my attention so I wasn’t devouring it at my normal rate and therefore I had mislaid it when it came to packing. So it was with some slightly despondent starring at my ‘to be read’ pile whilst I was packing I decided what to take with me. I ended up bringing The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters which I still haven’t finished and The Time Travellers Wife which I brought a long time ago as part of a 3 for 2.
I opted to read The Glass Books and I’m still not overly enjoying it, it’s heavily over-described, to such an extent where a character will be racing through some hidden corridors and I’d be so invested in trying to take in all the detail being thrown at me, the walls of pipes, the hooks with vials on, the barred prison doors etc. etc. ad infinitum that I’m not getting immersed in the story as I’m concentrating so hard on trying to get the picture in my head as exactly as the author seems to want me to see it, so I was very aware of just seeing the words and not the picture. Thinking back to Stephen King’s On Writing that I read recently, where he talked about the reader doing a large chunk of the work in creating the picture and therefore it not being necessary to over describe, I’m more of that school of thought. I’d much rather have the character fleeing through the corridor accompanied by a few words of choice description, so that I’m fleeing with him. Having said that, I realise that the author, G.W. Dahlquist is emulating a certain style that is over described and although it’s a style I don’t like, that’s not to say others wouldn’t. Personally I think this book would make a fantastic film or even just an audio book, something sumptuous, taking away the effort of world creation being forced upon the reader (more on Glass Books later on in this very long post).
Now one of the hazards of visiting my dad is the food, these days I get around it as much as I can by bringing my own food and doing the cooking but we have to let dad cook at least once. Sunday night it was chicken and veg and put it this way he put the vegetables on way before he put the chicken in the oven, I think it’s fairly accepted these days that the vegetables don’t need much time and therefore can go on the stove last thing for 5 – 10 minutes, not 40! So we were all presented with a plate of chicken and veg, the chicken was just about ok, the veg on the other hand, well I tried the mashed potato, you surely can’t do much wrong with mashed potato? It’s pretty flavourless to start with, but this was grains of starch suspended in a watery solution, I didn’t eat the rest and hid my uneaten food with the remains of the kids plates, who had eaten even less, Boy Lacer had been using his fork to suck the tomato ketchup!
Sunday night was finishing my latest softie, the ha ha rabbit from Aranzi Aronzo and catching up with some Dexter, I have a theory about who the ice truck killer is; Dexter’s sister, now no one tell me if I’m right or not but whoever the ice truck killer is knows a lot about Dexter obviously and if the ice truck killer is someone who has absolutely no link to Dexter, how come he/she knows so much? Specially with the episode earlier about the ice truck killer depositing body parts in places from Dexter’s photo album, how else would the ice truck killer know that these random shots of Miami meant something to Dexter?
Anyway on the subject of the rabbit it was my first softie with proper limbs and it was tough sewing the seams up of the body up straight as the limbs were pushing the material out of alignment, I also ended up sewing the legs on the wrong way, I think I had initially pinned them the right way but had unpinned them as I was having problems with keeping the two pieces of body together, so when I put the legs back I think I did it wrong. However Girl Lacerloves it, even if it’s legs and ears are a little crooked. Above is a photo of it and a vintage toy rabbit (on the left in case you can’t guess) I remember from my childhood that I found in my dad’s house. I’ve been trying to remember whose the rabbit was and it’s origins, I’m pretty sure it was ‘vintage’ back when I was a kid. It’s absolutely gorgeous, even though it’s dress skirt is starting to come off. I’ve been looking at it closely and I think it’s hand made and I would love to make something similar one day, the level of detail, right down to the rabbit’s old fashioned drawers under it’s dress. My dad had also dug old my old Sooty puppet, now that was new when I’d been playing with it, but even that’s vintage now!
Monday was zoo day, a very cold zoo day. We went to Chester, which has a lovely zoo which we’d been to before. Their enclosures are fantastic, nice and big and they have a great selection of animals. We saw the elephants which Boy Lacer particularly loved.
giraffes (including a very cute baby),
a glimpses of jaguars,
and orangutans, which were very cute and very clever, it was freezing cold and they were grazing from the bushes in their outside enclosure covered by blankets,
We spent Tuesday inside, the weather has been truly awful this holiday, so I attacked The Glass Books of the Dream Eatersagain, in desperation just to finish it if anything, it’s a long book (753 pages) and it felt like I had been reading it forever. As I’vesaid before on this post I wasn’t getting on with this book but I kept reading as it did have it’s occasional good bits and I was just sure it would all come together in the end in some gripping climax which would make the previous 700 pages all worth it and oh it so didn’t happen. Actually some of the scenes just prior to the big climax scene weren’t bad but the final scene was so “Argh just hurry up and finish this will you!”. Having said that every cloud has a silver lining, it was Susan Hill’s Creative writing course that encouraged me to read more in order to develop as a writer and I think sometimes it is easier to learn from a book you don’t like as opposed to a book that you love because it can be sometimes difficult to pin down why you love something but a lot easier to pin down why you hate it. Reading The Glass Books has made me appreciate how difficult it is in particular to write fight scenes convincingly, particularly ones involving a crowd of people, to be honest a lot of the larger fight scenes in this book lost me I was so busy trying to keep track of who was doing what to who, like I wrote earlier up the post, I think this book would havemade a far better film, either that or had 200 – 300 words lopped off it. But in the end to summarise my feelings about this book, I was disappointed, the reviews plastered all over the cover screamed out at me as a book I would absolutely love “Gripping gothic rollercoaster” said Scotland on Sunday, “Harry Potter for grown-ups” says the Metro and the London Paper described it as Sherlock Holmes with the production values of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, absolutely perfect for me as a reader and potential inspiration for me as a writer as I lovewriting adventure stories (so the lessons learnt from the fight sequences were particularly valuable). So maybe my negative reaction to this bookwas not completely due to the book itself, just my disappointment due to the over-hyping on the book cover, maybe I should hold my argument with the reviewers instead?
Tuesday night was more TV (I know, my holidays are soooo exciting), I caught up with the London mayoral debate on Newnight, please why would anyone vote for Boris? I’m sure most of Boris’s potential voters are just leaning his way because they’re either fed up of the Labour government and ok Ken is Labour but he’s not exactly new Labour is he? I’m a big Ken supporter but I’m no fan of Labour. Other potential Boris voters I think are leaning towards Boris just because they don’t like what Ken has done with the congestion and emission zones, which ok aren’t pleasant but the time is coming where the people in power have to do unpleasant things to protect our environment, you do not have to drive a gas guzzling Chelsea tractor! Oh and us for Bendy Buses, so many other cities across the world have bendy buses, yet London somehow doesn’t like them?
Tuesday night TV was also a Mark Lawson interview with Russell T. Davies. I love watching RTD interviews, that man has been intwined with the TV I’ve been watching since I was a kid ranging from Why Don’t You, to the ground breaking Queer as Folk which I adored as a teenager and of course there’s Doctor Who and Torchwood, heck I even watch Sarah Jane Adventures sometimes. Anyway an interesting interview, I liked how he described how he oversaw the Doctor Who series, ensuring an overall vision. I also found it interesting how he said he knew when he was leaving and when David Tennant was leaving but of course he didn’t say when, I know everyone reckons it’ll be 2009 for both of them (after the three specials) but I like to think (hope) that it’ll be at least one more series after that.
Wednesday was a trip on the train, an old 1950s (I think) diesel. Boy Lacer is a typical boy and loves trains, so he quite liked that. The way back was good as we were at the front of the train and there were glass windows at the front allowing us to look through to the driver’s compartment and then out of the train.
I love the lines of the old carriage
Then Wednesday night was of course more TV (I know, exciting) but Wednesday night TV is getting good, classic shouting at the TV viewing, with Property Ladder followed by The Apprentice. It’s nice to see the Property Ladder back and as usual it full of the same old entertaining idiots refusing to listen to Sarah Beany’s advice, that must be something the researchers on that show check, probably the first question they ask potential applicants, something along the lines of “If Sarah Beany, the very rich and very successful property developer, who knows what she’s talking about, criticises a part of your newbie mad as hatter property developing plans, would you listen to her?” and if the answer is “No”, they’d go “Yes of course you can come on our show!” This week’s episode featured a couple knocking down an existing extension to replace it with an extension of pretty much exactly the same size and redistributing their room layout to accommodate a massive hallway, shame about the tiny living room then and another family quadrupling their house to a £1 million plus mansion, shame it’s outside looked like a care home then. The Apprentice was the normal car crash in progress, watching these guys make me feel like a business guru!
Anyway Thurday and finally back home, not particularly amazing how spending nearly a week in a large house makes our small flat seem even smaller!