Monday, 31 May 2010


Lately I have been keeping a note of books I've read in a Google Doc file. This evening I checked it to add a book to the list. According to this list I have only read six books so far in May! Which is a shocking state of affairs.

Hopefully June will be a more fruitful month.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday Salon: 16/05/10

The Sunday

It is a lovely sunny Sunday morning here in Glasgow. I went out to buy morning rolls and newspapers and the street felt rather tranquil. Except for someone playing rather loud jazz which I stopped to appreciate. Although I wouldn't like to be their neighbour. Tellingly, the flat below them had a 'To Let' sign on it. Perhaps loud early morning jazz isn't to everyone's taste.

This week my attention has been occupied by

It was due back at the library on Friday and I didn't start it until Tuesday. Other readers had forewarned me that it takes some suspension of belief to read this novel. Not a hard task considering Niffenegger's debut deals with time travelling as a 'normal' condition. Anyway, to start, a synopsis here:

Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ...but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat. With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity. It is certain to cement her standing as one of the most singular and remarkable novelists of our time.

There is so much that happens in this book. The running theme throughout the book is grief and loss of a lover (or two), of youth, of a sister, of a sense of being and purpose. The book deals with the idea of a life after death that isn't filled with angels or meeting with loved ones. It's a grim existence with the spirit required to stay within the boundaries of their flat (slightly confusing as this character died in a hospital in the first couple of chapters). I am reluctant to talk too much about this book because I feel it's a wonderful discovery of a story. There are other sub plots, such as Martin who suffers from OCD and is unable to leave his flat, even to find his wife. Niffenegger writes about a sense of longing very well.

One criticism I have is the characterisation of Julia, the dominant of the twins. For storyline purposes, more time is spent on Valentina's development. We don't hear much from Julia until later in the book and we only glimpse clues behind her personality and character.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the sub-character that was an archivist. Albeit a ninety-five year old gent with too much time on his hands. Damn, I forgot to type up an extract before I took the book back. At the beginning of one of the later chapters, volunteers at Highgate Cemetery were commentated about user expectations and assumptions that all records are being digitised now. This is something I came up against when I was working in archives and it was nice to see reference to my chosen profession.

I have been very lazy with book reviews this week. In fact this entire week has been one of laziness. Although I did decide on a personal reading challenge. I was looking at my Mount TBR and noticed a lot of books are by female authors. So I am going to set myself the challenge of only reading female authors for the next couple of months. Please note, this will not be a 'strict' exercise. Female writers do deserve more attention but not at the expense of male writers. I shall attempt to justify my decision if I review a book by a non-male author *grins*

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, folks. I have coffee, Spotify and buttered morning rolls. Canny get much better than that.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Those living in the UK can't have failed to have noticed that an election took place last week. For non UK readers, two centres of power control my life. One is the devolved parliament of Scotland which is based in Edinburgh. Its representatives are elected using a proportional representation system. The Scottish National Power has the biggest share of seats but not enough to claim a majority of government. They have 47 seats of a potential 129. At the moment they are puttering along and doing reasonably well. Although I strongly think they will lose their hold in the next Scottish elections but that's for another time. The Scottish Parliament deals with a lot of issues excluding taxation and foreign policy. These powers belong to Westminister, which was the subject of the elections last week.

Despite having a devolved parliament, Scotland is not a sovereign country. As much as I would love to live in a completely independent country, I do not think we have the economy to support this. Scotland has been hit badly by the recession (not as bad as previous recessions but still.....) and would have probably been crippled if we had been operating outwith the UK political framework. Anyway, the representation system at Westminister is slightly different. It operates on a First Past the Post system. The party that reaches 326 seats first wins the election. So far, so unfair. But that didn't happen this time round. The problem has arisen due to the Conservatives only polling 306 seats. Not enough to make a majority government. The British political scene has been interesting to watch the past couple of days. Unfortunately talks have resulted in a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

Having the Conservatives in power does not bode well for Scotland. I am too young to remember the Poll Tax protests yet the effects are still being felt. In my last job an older colleague admitted he was still paying back his Poll Tax 'debt' after refusing to pay for it. It speaks volumes that Scotland only has one elected MP at Westminister. Scotland was once the jewel in Britain's heavy industry crown; the Clydeside in Glasgow had hundreds of shipyards churning out ships day and night. Now there are only two active shipyards if my memory serves me right. The Tories do not care about what happens in the UK, outside of their southern English strong hold. The Scottish Parliament's purse strings are controlled by Westminister. With the Tories in power, I can see those funds being dramatically cut.

Alas the SNP became something of a joke during this election, with their attempts to the broadcast of the televised debates. It smacked of a child spitting its dummy out of the pram. I do believe that more parties should have been present in these debates. It was the first time such debates had been broadcast. I understand these are a staple part of the American Presidential campaign and I hope we keep them. The SNP could have teamed up with the other 'minority' parties and presented a united, dignified front for other parties to have a chance at the debating podium. Instead they cried "WAAAAAHHHHHH!" and stamped their feet.

All I can say is that I did not vote for any of the big three parties (Labour, Lib Dems or Conservatives) or the SNP. I vote but rarely find a party that corresponds to all of my political beliefs. Yet I find myself unable to not vote. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman and am well versed at the struggle for female voters. To be quite frank, the struggle for women is still going on. At least I live somewhere that I have the freedom to vote, for whichever party I please and for my political voice to at least have the illusion it is being heard.

With the Conservatives in power, I hope for more people to engage with politics. Not to think politics is boring or a waste of time or useless. This time I am old enough to take part in the protests because there will be protests. Anyone who is not exclusively white, male, upper middle class, married with children and leans politically to the right of the centre is going to be fucked over by this new government.

Will the revolution be televised?

Monday, 10 May 2010

Service Resumed

The awful exam was on Saturday. It went not as bad as it could have done and I stayed in for the full 3 hours. I had spent a lot of time studying Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation and it didn't come up. I was not amused. We finished at 5pm so it was straight to the pub and then to a friend's party. There was some good chat and I really enjoyed it. One major benefit to doing this course has been the new friends I've made. The archives world is rather small (well, in the UK it is) so no doubt we'll meet up again. There's already talk of us heading to Edinburgh in 2011/12 when the ICA have their conference. I have started saving my pennies. Although a lot of people are staying in Glasgow to write their dissertations which is good. Ah the dissertation *sighs*

I am trying to get get up at the same time during the week to avoid slinking around the house in my PJs. Also if I get up early then I see Him Indoors for a bit before he goes to work. And I quite like making morning coffees for us both. Hark at me, I sound like a Stepford Wife.

Not watching television is going well. I've stuck to my guns and actually find it rather hard to be around the television now. I'm enjoying having free time and not building my evening around what's on the box that night. At a study session last week I admitted I had 'given' up television. People were gob smacked but calmed down when I admitted that I was sticking with Glee and Doctor Who. After some soul searching I have decided to abandon any attempts to get back into Lost again. I may pick it up in the future but right now it doesn't interest me. The radio gives me much more satisfaction and the BBC programs are rather good. Also Stereo Mood has been a God-send for studying. Music is a much better way of killing my free time. It has been lovely lying on my comfy sofa and listening to the different lyrics and music styles coming through my Interwebs box.

Also I am taking up knitting lessons, kindly supplied by Not Just Laura. Knitting is something I have always scoffed at but I'm attracted to making something with my own hands. I'm not a very good cook, baker, woodwork, crafty person. If you screw up knitting, you can always turn it into a scarf. I quite fancy making a hat or tea cosy but shall start small with a scarf.

Giving up TV has allowed me to spend more time reading. This month I have decided to keep track of what I read and I am reading more fiction by female authors. Reviews shall follow shortly.

So yeh, I am back.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Belated introduction.

There have been some new faces appearing on this blog. Hello and welcome :) I thought it would be nice to do a quick introduction and explain a bit more about me.

My name is Laura and I am a 25 year old student living in Glasgow, Scotland. Currently I am studying towards a MSc in Information Management and Preservation. Hopefully this will allow me to enter the field of archives and records management. Unfortunately, as with every other industry at the moment, jobs are a bit thin on the ground. There are big sporting events taking place in the UK over the next four years: the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow and the Olympics in London in 2012. Funding for public archives tends to fall under the umbrella of 'Culture' which includes sport. As a result a lot of money is disappearing into this black hole and fewer permanent non-project jobs are available. I highly doubt I will be able to get a job in my chosen field for the next couple of years. At the moment I am trying to fix up some volunteer posts once I have finished my course.

My situation is part of the reason why I have become more interested in book blogging. My free time is going to rapidly increase and I am not very good if left to my own devices. Much as I hate to admit it, I need some form of schedule or routine. Hopefully I can get a better structure to my blog by timetabling topics for different days, such as the Library Loot posts on a Tuesday/Wednesday.

That's the doom and gloom over! What else? I live with my lovely boyfriend, Him Indoors, our goldfish, Dougal, and our lovely kakariki, Dante. Him Indoors is not a big reader but he does try. We're currently going through an experiment to cut down the amount of television we watch. We have a nasty habit, me in particular, of having the television on as background noise. I read Living Outside the Box this week and a lot of comments in the book struck home. The author explains watching television is a passive experience. Whilst watching a favourite TV show can be good for us, watching TV for the sake of it can have a negative effect. I was one of those people who would say "I don't watch much TV apart from the news. And Wife Swap. And *insert reality show title here*....." Once I thought about how much television I watched, I was rather horrified. Him Indoors and I discussed it and decided we are going to seriously trim the time we spend watching TV. Exceptions are Glee and Doctor Who which amounts to under 2 hours a week. We are currently working our way through Battlestar Galatica so that maybe takes us to six hours a week. Also, we are going to have one evening a week with no scree time; including laptops and other computers (between us we own one PC, two laptops and one netbook!).

I switched to the radio for my 'background' noise this week and have really enjoyed it. BBC Radio 4 has had some excellent programs and their breakfast show is a lot better than the fluff BBC1 has become. The threatened BBC Radio 6 is fantastic and has some wonderful music choices. Apparently audience figures have risen dramatically since the BBC announced it was being axed next year. Fingers crossed they keep it.

Next Saturday is my exam so I shall be a tad quiet this week. Last minute panic works for my studying method so I will be tearing through my class notes at rapid speed. I have got some books I want to review in the near future. Google Docs lets you post directly to your blog which is excellent. I am going to try and keep a list of the books I read to keep track of potential reviews.

Enjoy your Sunday, fellow bloggers. I have coffee, BBC Radio 6 and some chilling out to do.