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shewhomust

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An eccentric tour of Bristol's Harbour area [Sep. 17th, 2019|09:37 pm]
shewhomust
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The long-awaited - by me, if by no-one else - post, covering that part of my weekend in Bristol spent wandering around looking at things (as opposed to sitting in a room talking about books). It strikes me as more than usually eccentric, in the mismatch between the things I most want to talk about and the pictures I most want to post: in an ideal world, pictures and text would illuminate each other, but there's nothing perfect about this world. A case in point: I want to start with a picture of my hotel, The Bristol, because it illustrates several things about it. It's just unfortunate that it's rather a dull picture. It does have the merit of being taken from the conference venue (the Watershed):

Just over the way...


Hence the conversation (about other people's dinner plans):
E: "The Bristol? But there's a Hotel Bristol in every city in Europe!"
Me: "Yes, but only one of them is actually visible from here."

My room was on the first floor, overlooking the river - which means it was facing an area lively with night-time bars. It was heavily double-glazed, and it needed to be, but it was also screened by trees. I never closed my curtains, and I woke to dappled light, glinting off the water and patterned with leaves, which was a delight. Below the trees you can see the hotel restaurant, where I breakfasted and watched people walking along the harbourside under the trees.

More under the cut. Also more, and with luck better, pictures...Collapse )

I could go on, but this is quite long enough. tl;dr version: I had a lovely time, and took lots of pictures.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The song of the yellowhammer [Sep. 12th, 2019|05:23 pm]
shewhomust
When we arrived at the pub for the quiz last night, we found C scrolling through the documents which have just been released under the title 'Operation Yellowhammer', which purport to be the government's assessment of the worst we might face from a no-deal Brexit.

The thing that puzzles me about this document is who chose its name, and whether they did so with malice aforethought. But when I said this, F said he assumed the government had a list, a system for generating names by combining a noun from this group and an adjective from that... Which is what I would have thought, too, had the result in this case not been so suspiciously apt.

To appreciate this, though, you have to know that the document in which the government assesses the risk of food shortages is named after a (once but no longer common) hedgerow bird whose song is traditionally rendered as A little bit of bread and no cheese!

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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The last synagogue in Bradford [Sep. 10th, 2019|10:45 am]
shewhomust
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An exhibition of photographs at Salt's Mill, part of the Saltaire Festival, but the fullest account seems to be the one in the Guardian.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Three mysteries [Sep. 6th, 2019|12:08 pm]
shewhomust
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Technical, political, personal:

  • Since the last major Microsoft update, the pretty picture displayed during start-up has been out of focus. This doesn't seem to be caused by the picture itself: I've been through several with the same effect. And it doesn't seem to be caused by the computer: as soon as start-up reaches the point where it displays my choice of picture, it's fine. For that matter, the 'me' icon overlaid on the photographic background is also fine. I've never understood why Microsoft felt the need to show me a random photo of its choosing at this point, and I'm not particularly upset that they now choose to show me a brightly coloured blur instead. Just, it's a mystery.


  • When Mr Toad and his fellow conspirators obtained the Queen's consent to prorogue Parliament, it was reported that Privy Councillors fro, the Opposition (Jeremy Corbyn, and I think someone from the LibDems too) had asked to meet Her Majesty. Did she ever answer their request? I haven't seen any subsequent reports, but perhaps I have missed something?


  • Making bread from a sourdough starter imposes a certain routine. I don't think of it as a chore, by any means, but once a week, give or take, I need to find a day in which I have time to attend to a loaf of bread (not constantly, but throughout the day). This is not a problem. But why is it so much easier once I know what kind of loaf it will be? Yesterday there was some cooked rice left over from dinner the previous night, and that's always a good addition to a plain loaf; but last week just deciding that I'd make an oatmeal and sultana loaf kick started me into - oh, just into getting on with doing it. The workings of my mind are still a mystery to me.


This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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A demonstration and two exhibitions [Sep. 4th, 2019|03:13 pm]
shewhomust
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On Saturday I accompanied [personal profile] durham_rambler, dutifully but without much enthusiasm, to the demonstration against the proroguing of parliament.

This was in Millennium Place, in front of the Gala Gallery, which was a reminder that I hadn't yet seen the Norman Cornish exhibition there, and it was about to end. So once the speeches started, I slipped onto the Gallery. Norman Cornish was a local artist, best known for his townscapes and scenes of mining life (imagine Lowry if he'd cared more for people) but this was a small show of his portraits. Mostly, these were of easily available models - the artist's family, himself - from rapid sketches to formal oil paintings, s collection any family would be happy to own. A second group of outsize pastel (possible; what do I know) heads had been commissioned for a Tyne Tees Television programme The Burning Question. These were larger than life (in all senses) characters, exaggerated, almost cartoonish: Cornish had apparently sketched them at the local pub (or so he told his wife, as he set off for the evening's session) but they looked like the figures who people his paintings, walking home from work, propping up the bar, but here isolated, scrutinised, their cartoon liveliness magnified. All this was interesting, but the only portrait I really liked was one which stood out from both groups, forming a bridge between them: a charcoal study of the artists father, a big sketch in extreme close-up, but entirely alive: it felt like being in the presence of a real person.

The centenary of Cornish's birth is being celebrated by a rolling programme of exhibitions the year and around the county, which I think is a rather neat idea.

When I returned to the demonstration, speakers were still speaking. [personal profile] durham_rambler was talking to a friend who had arrived late, because he had been to an exhibition of old photographs at Gilesgate church: oh, yes! we meant to go to that, didn't we? So we caught a bus up Gilesgate, and joined the crowds admiring photographs from Michael Richardson's collection. I had had Norman Cornish to myself, but this was a much more sociable event: you walked round at the speed of the queue, and occasionally you chatted with your neighbour to identify a location or to compare memories.

I'd call that a Saturday well spent.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Ingenious Mr. Toad [Sep. 3rd, 2019|06:22 pm]
shewhomust
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The Government went Poop-poop-poop,
As it raced along the road.
Who was it steered it over the cliff?


I don't know why it has taken me so long to spot the resemblance.

Wondering whether this was old news, and everyone knew it except me, I did a quick search and discovered Victoria Coren Mitchell, making an entirely different point, but I think she's seen the likeness:

"Piffle-paffle, Toady is a great patriot!," scoffs Boris Johnson. "I met him at a motor show where he clearly indicated to me that he hopes Britain grabs back the power to self-determine. You simply can't be giving in, he told me, to these weasels."


This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Two little boys [Sep. 1st, 2019|10:13 pm]
shewhomust
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In the Classics corner, we have Will, who is within days of his eleventh birthday. Will is the youngest of nine, and the seventh son of a seventh son: he lives with his mother, father and many elder siblings in the Thames valley, near Windsor. Will's quest is to assemble the six signs, and so oppose the Rising of the Dark. To accomplish this, he has the assistance of a number of powerful immortals, because Will is the last of the Old Ones.

In the New corner, Oliver is twelve years old. He lives with his mother, who is currently away helping his sister with the new baby, in a village called Loosestrife. Oliver's quest is to go to the Rainblade Mountains and bring back the rain. To accomplish this, he has the assistance of his familiar, who is an armadillo, because Oliver is a very minor mage.

I didn't set out to perform a comparative reading of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising and T. Kingfisher's Minor Mage. But that's what seems to have happened...Collapse )

In short, I know The Dark is Rising is a classic, I can see some of what makes it a classic, but I continue not to love it. Whereas Minor Mage is not necessarily Ursula Vernon's greatest work, but it is full of delights. Oliver is an endearing, resourceful, responsible twelve year old; his familiar is an armadillo, and what's not to like about that? And, while it would be a pity to spoiler this, there's a ballad motif which gets the full 'Ursula Vernon snarks about fairy tales' treatment.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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We interrupt our scheduled programme... [Aug. 30th, 2019|08:46 pm]
shewhomust
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Mostly I don't post about politics here; mostly I have nothing to say that you aren't hearing from everyone else, and mostly I get it out of my system by shouting at the radio. But these are exceptional times.

So, to begin at the beginning: in a parliamentary democracy, we elect representatives to study the evidence, debate the issues and make the decisions. They then work out, in detail, how those decisions are to be implemented. This is a full time job, and we pay them a respectable salary to do it. If they decide that a question is too hard for them, and hand it over to the public to give a simple yes / no answer - well, then they have already suspended parliamentary democracy. And I do wish someone would ask David Cameron how he feels it's going so far.

But we have a new Prime Minister, and I'm tired of hearing that this is undemocratic because we didn't elect him. At least, it may be undemocratic, but it's the system we use in this country: the leader of whichever party can cobble together a majority in parliament is chosen by the Queen to be her Prime Minister. She doesn't ask questions about how you got to be party leader, or achieved that majority. We don't have a directly elected President. Once upon a time, an MP who became a minister had to stand for re-election by his constituency, but we don't do that any more. What seems to be provoking these accusations of being undemocratic is that the Conservative Party has decided - err - to elect its leader in a democratic manner, by allowing its members to vote.

Plus the whole parliamentary and political timetable which has allowed Boris Johnson to take office largely in the absence of Parliament. I think the opposition (in the broadest sense, the soft Brexiters as well as the Remainers) have allowed themselves to be outmanouevred: Boris has had the long summer recess to trot about Europe trying to look as if he wants a deal, and to swan around London making pre-election promises, with no-one to ask difficult questions. He likes that: he doesn't need to do press interviews, so he doesn't submit to them, just as he didn't have to participate in the leadership debates. It's possible that proroguing parliament is a way to block legislation, but it could just be a way to prolong the period without scrutiny. The length of the recess makes the parliamentary time lost look less on comparison: I wish someone had had the nous to say, at the beginning of the summer, "You know, these are interesting times, perhaps we should cut our holidays short this year." Similarly, is it too late to say "Perhaps we should defer Conference until November"?

We shall see.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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Curtsey while you're thinking what to say... [Aug. 27th, 2019|12:39 pm]
shewhomust
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It's a while since I posted, not because I don't know what to say: as ever, there are plenty of words in my head, it's getting them onto the keyboard that's a problem. Blame the heat, which makes my attic somewhere I don't want to be in the afternoons and evenings; blame computer problems (eventually solved, I hope, by a new power supply); blame Bank Holiday lassitude.

Meanwhile, I am still sorting through my photos of Bristol. They, too, may contribute to a longer post in due course. But for the time being, here's one to be going on with...

Above the smoke


Every cathedral should have a garden.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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An excursion to Dalemark [Aug. 22nd, 2019|07:04 pm]
shewhomust
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I started my reading for the Diana Wynne Jones conference with A Sudden Wild Magic: it had been mentioned at the earlier gathering in Newcastle as her book for adults, and I hadn't been able to place it. The subject matter - a group of women on a mission to disrupt a celibate male society - may justify that 'adult' descriptor, but there's a broadness to the humour which I initially found quite off-putting, and even when I adjusted to that, I didn't feel that I was reading something more grown-up than say, Hexwood, published the following year. Maybe that's why the two had become tangled in my mind. But when I took A Sudden Wild Magic from the shelf, I also dislodged Minor Arcana: one of the stories in this collection was described in the author's introduction as "one of the first adult stories I wrote", so I decided to take the hint and stay with that theme.

That story is The True State of Affairs, and it is quite unlike A Sudden Wild Magic. It is also quite unlike anything else in Minor Arcana. The Sage of Theare is a fun time paradox, featuring Chrestomanci, and a bunch of gods (if you wanted to consider DWJ's treatment of gods, this would be a useful data point). The pleasure of The Master is in the way the tale unfolds, which I wouldn't want to spoiler even if I had anything else to say about it. File The Girl who loved the Sun also under classicism, the Metamorphoses considered from the other side of the glass. Dragon Reserve, Home Eight is SF with dragons, and an interesting family structure - but also the standard fantasy trope of the outlawed talent. What the Cat told me is an equally familiar set-up, the wicked magician, his apprentice and the cat, but this time the cat gets to tell the story. nad and Dan adn Quaffy is widely anthologised; it always reminds me of Only You Can Save Mankind, which it pre-dates. I don't think that the short story is DWJ's medium, but none of these is less than entertaining.

And then there's The True State of Affairs, which is something else again.Collapse )

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
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