Needed to get out of the house (cooped up here all on our own since Eric is in Stockholm this weekend) so we went to browse Waterstone’s at Piccadilly. Ended up buying more books than I had planned, as usual, but several of them are quick easy-read fantasy. Tried my new baby carrier (yes, another one!) and it felt really nice.
Those of you living in Estonia are probably all too aware of the situation around the Bronze Soldier. Those outside Estonia may well have missed it.
The Bronze Soldier is a monument, located in central Tallinn, to honour the Soviet soldiers who died in WW2. While the Russians think of the Soviet Army as liberating Estonia from the Nazis, Estonians cannot ignore the 50 years of occupation that followed. The statue had therefore become a magnet for both Estonian and Russian nationalist youth, so the government decided that the statue as well as the dozen-or-so soldiers buried underneath it should be moved to a less central location (a war cemetery).
The decision did not go down well with the Russians in Estonia or with Russian officials. The former have now spent two nights rioting – 1 killed, 150 injured, 800 arrested, numerous shops looted. The latter are threatening to sever diplomatic relations.
I can understand the upset feelings, to some extent. But I cannot understand how the rioters or the Russian government can hope to achieve anything positive through their actions. Looting a Hugo Boss shop and liquor shops? Powerful political statement, that.
By the way, Itching for Eestimaa is a good place for commentary on Estonia and Estonian events.
After Ingrid learned to sit, she had a period when she refused to lie down. I guess sitting was such a novel, exciting thing that she just wanted to do it all the time. Now that the novelty is wearing off, she is willing to spend some time in other positions as well. Not on her back, though: she always either turns on her side, arching her back like a little cheese doodle, or onto her tummy.
And while she is on her tummy, she now wants to go places and do things. She wants to reach that toy, or that corner of the carpet just ahead of her, so she strains with her whole body… and pushes herself backwards. Frustration ensues. Or she pushes more with one arm and rotates in place like the hands of a clock. (When I took the photo she started out on her back on the fleece, with her head roughly in the middle, where the wool has been flattened.)
It seems like hard work, but it keeps her occupied and as long as she isn’t moving away from something she really wants to reach, she seems to enjoy the experience. Generally she keeps at it until she is really tired, or until she gets stuck because she’s backed up against something so she cannot move any more.
I cannot call this activity crawling because it is not intentional and the movements are tiny, but nevertheless she moves!
I have spent the last few months (yes, MONTHS) looking for bags for our vacuum cleaner. We have a Swedish vacuum cleaner from Electrolux, and while other Electrolux vacuum cleaners are sold in England, this one is not and has never been. So it appears almost impossible to find bags for it.
I know I must have succeeded in the past somehow, but I have no idea how or where! Soon it’ll get to the point where it is easier to buy a new vacuum cleaner than to find replacement bags for the old one.
Ingrid’s last day at the nursery at work. Next week she will be going to the “real” nursery, close to home.
Yesterday we went to a concert for the first time in at least 7 months – to hear Murray Perahia at the Barbican. This was a birthday gift to Eric’s father who is very fond of classical music, so Eric bought tickets well over a year in advance. Hearing a great pianist live would be a wonderful experience in any case, but our excellent seats made it even better.
The programme consisted of Bach (a partita), Beethoven (a sonata), Schumann (Fantasiestücke) and Chopin (a ballade). The Bach piece was my favourite – no surprise there. Bach is the one classical composer whose music I could put on a continuous loop for days without tiring of it. Beethoven has “too many notes” – I find his music a bit difficult to follow. Schumann’s Fantasiestücke were, as the title implies, a mixed bag: very varied. Chopin’s was technically impressive but again not as gripping as Bach.
Despite this I thought that Perahia’s style was better suited for the lighter, more romantic composers. He played very emotionally, gently, almost tenderly. I like my Bach performed firmly, with gusto and confidence – Glenn Gould’s version of the Goldberg Variations is more to my taste than Perahia’s. Not that I didn’t enjoy this, though!
I was also intrigued to simply see Murray Perahia as a person. He appeared very quiet and introverted, almost bothered by the huge crowd. His bows were polite but small, his introductions of the encores quick and clipped – I got the impression that he would have preferred to walk out as soon as he finished playing.
Murray Perahia at the Barbican. First time we left Ingrid with a babysitter in the evening. Success from our point of view but not from hers.
Dave is a cab driver in London. He ends up in a semi-accidental marriage that slowly goes downhill and becomes more and more miserable, until the couple separate and Dave cannot meet his son any more. This leads to a severe depression and Dave suffers a nervous breakdown. During that period he feels compelled to write a book containing his most important thoughts about the world – most of them strongly coloured by his broken marriage and by cabbie lore.
Hundreds of years later in a post-apocalyptic England (flooded rather than nuked, unlike most post-apocalyptic visions) the book is found and taken as gospel. The entire world is organised around Dave’s misogynistic ravings about men living separately from women and children being in shared custody, and women being evil bitches. That, and the Knowledge. The symbol of the religion is the Wheel, the priests are called Drivers, and driving terms have permeated all parts of the language.
The book cuts between these two stories.
The future story is a satire of religion – a book of dubious provenance is taken as god’s literal truth, and interpreted by men both literally and figuratively. Rules that made sense in a specific situation hundreds of years ago are applied to everything. As a satire it was very straightforward, unsubtle and not particularly interesting.
The degeneration of society and the devolution of language get a lot of attention from the author. Terms half-understood are applied to only remotely related concepts: all trousers are called jeans, and all lamps are called lectrics. Some of these are quite obvious, whereas others are so obscure that Self has felt it necessary to include a glossary at the end. (Which sort of brings to mind cheap Tolkien knockoffs with made-up languages.) The future world speaks mokni (a derivation of Cockney) which the author spells phonetically.
– Owzabaht Dave, Mummi, vairs ee?
– Ees sittin infruntuv uz, luv, but we carn C im coz ees invizzibull.
– But ee can C uz, carn ee, Mummi?
– O yeah, mi luv, ee can C uz, ee sees uz in iz mirra.
The premise was interesting and the writing too, but the book as a whole was not my kind of book.
It’s a rather depressing read. I do not like books about miserably failing marriages and quarrelling couples. And the future, with its society crippled and brutalised by stupid rules, offers little hope either.
I also felt that I never really got a clear picture of what that future is like. And the transition, the emergence of a world where a religion is born from a single copy of a single book and then proceeds to conquer the entirety of England, is hard to envisage and hard to believe.
In the early chapters one has the joy of seeing the connections between the now and the future, and guessing at what will happen in Dave’s life to make him leave such a dismal legacy. But after the initial direction has been set, the rest never goes anywhere much, and the book becomes a bit tedious. Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker was, in my opinion, a better realisation of the degenerated-future, degenerated-language idea.
Achy back (which I woke with on Friday and which hasn’t gotten much better since then) and rather tired since Ingrid woke me at 5.30. Played PuzzleQuest most of the day, except when I was reading.
The Internet was broken during most of the day.
Swimming with Ingrid. Kew Gardens with a bunch of Berghedens, and then dinner with the same.
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