The eradication of the pink flowers

Day one

A Christmas project

Most people look to Christmas as a time to relax. Whilst we’re reunited as a family, the idea of lazing around is far from our minds.

The Mother has the wallpaper steamer in her hands and she’s attacking the bathroom walls with vigour. The ghastly pink flowers are wilting away into a sticky white goo.

pink flowery wallpaper

The Midget is helping too. I’ve designated her the Overseer of Wall Preparation. She wrote down wall measurements as I danced around with the tape measure first thing this morning, and now she’s the Mother’s sidekick with the steamer.

The Father is floating around the house doing some very important work (i.e. the sort he’s paid for).

Meanwhile, I’ve surrounded myself with squared paper, book, computers and pencils. I have a huge roll of lining paper and I’m sketching out plans for grids.

lining paper

Grids, because this is no normal bathroom painting. The theme is ancient Egypt.

And I don’t mean that we’re going to have a small piece of touristy papyrus printed with Tutankhamun or Akhenaten hanging on the wall, I mean the bathroom walls will be completely covered as if they were an ancient Egyptian tomb—early 18th dynasty to be precise.

I don’t know anyone with a mural on their bathroom walls.

It’s not a common choice, in fact I’d say it’s just a little crazy. Wonderful crazy, like painting red polka dot knickers on the kitchen wall, but even more so.

What’s more, it’s wasn’t even my idea. It came straight from the parents.

Designing the walls

I know more than the average person about ancient Egypt, and I know even more about my family. The struggle is how do I draw something that conveys what I love about ancient Egypt, in a way that is meaningful to the family, yet still amuses visitors.

First challenge came with choosing a goddess to represent the Mother.

“But I don’t want a bird on my head!”

“I don’t want to be a cow!”

I went through the list of the better known goddesses of Egypt. The Mother also wanted to be someone who’s partner could represent the Father, so the pairing of Isis and Osiris was straight out the window.

“I don’t want your father to be green!”

Similarly, the Midget had some opinion on exactly which goddess she was going to be.

“I’m not the goddess of death!”

My family are stubborn and fussy, but you would probably be so if you were going to see this painting every time you went in the bath.

If you were to depict yourself as a god or goddess who would you choose?

Not that it’s annoying or anything, but…

The Boyfriend looks at his phone. His new toys are in a van in Tamworth.

They’ve been in a van in Tamworth the last 104 times he’s checked, while other toys have just left China. He might be waiting a few weeks for them. More phone checking followed by more inevitable disappointment.

Yesterday he knew that two parcels, ordered from the same company, would be arriving with separate carriers but within minutes of each other. He even texted me to let me know. Whilst I admit being bemused that there were two men escorting the boxes, the advanced warning didn’t make them move any quicker.

The toys are still in a van in Tamworth.


A very bad idea

Sometimes you feel like doing something really good, like polishing your shoes. You get the shoe polish out the cupboard and find that when you bought your last pair of shoes from a real shoe shop, you also picked up a bottle of some spray-on ‘I clean anything’ magic lotion.

The first mistake is that you’re in sixth form, still at school, and although you don’t have lessons for the first two periods, and hence had a lie in, you do have lessons later on.

The second mistake is to throw every shoe you own into a box, carry them all downstairs into the smallest room in the house—the utility room—and proceed to spray on the cleaner.

Of course you don’t realise that you’ve made a mistake until every shoe shines. You stand up and try to breathe, but find you can’t.

In fact, the air is sticky. You wheeze your way into the kitchen, trying to breathe through your nose to see if that will help, and grab the back-door key.

You spend the next ten minutes stood in the garden. You drink large volumes of water, open every window and make a squeaky phone call to your mother to explain you’ve accidentally poisoned yourself with shoe polish. You text your friend who is already at school—speaking hurts—to say you’ll be late.

And you never, never do it again.
Large man statue in Budapest

Hunting for Wally, ladybugs and a purpose

kite circling above the swallows nest spring 2014

The desire to be something

Everybody wants to be something. Often that something isn’t well-defined. Sometimes it’s outright hazy.

Nobody wants to be nothing.

Being something is satisfying. It’s meaningful. It’s a reason for getting up in the morning, for your heart to gallop and your cheeks to flush. It’s an excuse for expressing yourself across the waves of the internet. It’s a reason to be the one to speak.

Not everyone wants to be the same something. My obsession might be your greatest bore. What’s your life-long quest and holy grail might be meaningless to me.

And then you want to be something more.

It doesn’t necessarily mean fame, it doesn’t mean changing a million, a thousand or even a hundred lives – although many do. It simply means that your life adds meaning to something somewhere, and then somewhere more. Always a little more.

In practice, being something worthy takes time. Meaning takes work to create. And patience.

A childhood dream

From when you’re a child playing dressing up it’s implied that you ought to know the name of your something. But most people don’t, and many who do change their mind.

In primary school I copied my best friend, the Noph. She wanted to be a vet.

In secondary school, in some sort of citizenship lesson, I was sat down in front of a survey on a computer screen and told I had to fill it in. The wise computer informed me I should be a technology teacher.

Aim higher.” The schools careers advisor wanted to push me. He told me to find out about being an academic. Professor Kate stood at the front of a lecture theatre talking symbols?

No, thank you.

The university careers advisor scratched his head and told me he couldn’t tell me what I wanted to be. He could tell me how to become many things. He could tell me how to get an internship. He could tell me how to get onto a Masters or a PhD course. He could tell me how to get a job in banking.

I know my something isn’t a physicist. But it used to be.

How to catch your something / How to find your purpose

I could see my something playing a game of Where’s Wally with me. Every time I thought I’d found it I’d turn the page and have to begin the search again.

Finding somethings, and finding love probably have a lot in common. When things ever get tricky with boys, the Noph throws me a piece of wisdom from a book we’ve both read (It’s not an exact quote as I don’t own the book, but wisdom isn’t dependent on exact phrasing).

Treat them like woodland creatures.

– Sarra Manning, Unsticky

I think it applies to men and my elusive sense of purpose equally. You have to stay alert. You have to keep watching. You have to be there to see it, but you have to be patient and you have to be gentle because it’s very easy to get carried away with ‘supposed to’, forget to listen and miss everything.

Don't worry if you don't have it all figured out. The plan will come together.

One purpose was never going to be enough for me. I’m hunting Wally’s whole family, not just Wally himself.

I don’t know how I’m going to change the world. I don’t know how I’ll describe my life when I reach 100. But all that fuss of feeling there should be a specific goal has dissipated.

I am something, and for now, even though I don’t know how to describe it or define it, I’m happy.

Listen, when I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I’d just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.

– Katherine, Under the Tuscan Sun (film)


When you have no memory, but plenty of stories

The desolate unfairness of Half of a Yellow Sun makes for a cruel story. My naïvety of world history catches me out when I read such books.

It’s set in Nigeria and the short-lived Biafra. I’ve heard of Lagos, but I hadn’t heard of Biafra of the Igbo people, and I couldn’t have pointed out Nigeria on a map.  I had no awareness of the atrocities I was going to read when I started the book. Yet the book isn’t all dark depressing and horrible. It’s a story of people, families, children and love.

But the backdrop to these relationships is horrendous. Emotionally, I can’t comprehend such unfairness. My brain has been washed with a lukewarm ‘there are people starving in Africa’, but most of the time my world feels no larger than this one bedroom house or the concrete office block where I work.

My closest understanding of Africa comes from my Egyptian friend, at college in America, my South-Africa colleague, applying for British citizenship, and my obsession with ancient history. To this Africa, I can relate. It’s educated and eats three meals a day, often with cake or biscuits. It looks familiar, barely any different from my world in my one bedroom house and concrete office block.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun shook me up. I need shaking.

And I have a huge amount to learn. If you have any suggestion of stories that have touched you and educated you about this world that we don’t see, please share.

But with regard to Biafra, and the characters of the story I just let into my heart, there’s a small fact that particularly jars at me.

From Wikipedia, “Britain supplied amounts of heavy weapons and ammunition to the Nigerian side because of its desire to preserve the country it created. The Biafra side on the other hand found it difficult to purchase arms as the countries who supported it did not provide arms and ammunition. The heavy supply of weapons by Britain was the biggest factor in determining the outcome of the war.”

Estimates suggest 3 million people died from the fighting or the associated famine.

Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a very different book. It’s not quite as tightly written as the Half of a Yellow Sun, but is definitely worth reading, especially, if like me your knowledge of recent history is sparse.

Again, I know the name Kabul from the newspapers, but in reality, I know nothing about the history of Afghanistan. I’m an independent educated woman, so Mariam in the book is alien to me. Her learning consists of reciting some religious verses and cooking. Her life is held within a tiny, closed world where as a woman her power is limited to a level that I simply cannot comprehend. The street outside changes around her: first by the Soviets, then by civil war, then the harsh rules of the Taliban, who in turn are pushed out by the Americans and the British declaring a war on terror.

Reading a story makes her street my street. Her family is my family. Her heartache is my heartache. But her humility isn’t my humility, it takes me a moment to accept that I can’t comprehend what it is she goes through, I don’t know I have that depth. I’ve never been pushed to my limits.

So, with this all churning in the back of my mind, my thoughts on remembrance day didn’t go along the lines of ‘I remember…’. They went along the lines of what do I need to plan to learn next. It’s a way of thinking that started in Poland, as I was walking through a stunning, beautiful city I became aware that where each modern building stood had once stood a street where men, women and children fought until death for an elusive freedom.

I went to the Warsaw Rising museum, and came out wondering why I knew nothing. I know nothing more than the British school curriculum. This doesn’t once mention the Warsaw Rising or the Biafran War or the many other catastrophes that I know nothing of. It says nothing of the soldiers who, as I was listening to the teacher regurgitate the textbook, were fighting and dying.

Knight in Warsaw

Donning the gardening gloves (or getting grubby fingers)

garden plant in spring

Planting in Spring

[…and written back then…]

I don’t actually own gardening gloves. I’m not that advanced. I do have a watering can which I inherited. I also have plant pots, which I borrowed.

My parents have not yet shown a flair for gardening. It’s there plant pots I’ve borrowed. In all my life, I don’t remember there actually being plants in the pots. In fact, when I asked if she had any I could borrow, the Mother didn’t know she owned plant pots. I wish to make it clear that I’m not saying that my parents can’t grow things. Just that it’s yet unproven. The Mother has romantic notions about growing things, and she’s actually planted some herbs in the garden of her newest house. Her herbs however have been under attack.

Yes my parents bought a new house, and yes it’s gorgeous, or at least it has potential once it’s been redecorated. It’s in the ‘bleak’ North, and yes, I’m jealous.

My grandparents on both sides have (or had) formidable gardening skills, making actually growing things a little bit intimidating.

I do however have a new house (rented) as of 6 weeks ago.

Without the internet, I haven’t been bored. I’ve taken up gardening. My tip is if you buy a packet of 1000 seeds for £1 from poundland, don’t plant them all. My hypothesis was 1 in 10 would germinate, and 1 in 10 would survive the move outdoors, leaving me with about 10 plants. When I went back North to visit Betty, I collected a load of old plant pots from my parents’ house. This is gardening on a tight budget.

It’s been highly stressful watching my plants grow, and knowing that I simply do not have enough space to grow all 1000 seedlings. I’ve culled some, actually many. I’ve also spent my lunch breaks buying more and more compost. Easily the most expensive part of my gardening project.

My next tip for gardening is know which plant is which. I know the carrots, because they’re the only seeds that refuse to grow. I know the beetroot, because the stems are purple. The cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts all look the same. Of course the sprouts are all doing great.

Next year I’m only going to grow vegetables I actually like.

My mother is, like me, attempting to grow things. Unlike my plants, hers have been eaten by next doors chickens.



[…written now…]

Turns out that plants are a bit like dogs. You can’t just go on holiday expecting that they’ll just be fine. You also shouldn’t leave them in the care of someone incompetent.

On first consideration, the Boyfriend doesn’t come across as incompetent. His mother is the best gardening person I know. In her garden I learnt that onions have stunning flowers, that some types of courgette have prickles and that there’s a type of apple called Katy.

Surrounded by dragon flies, newts, toads and butterflies you would have thought that the Boyfriend would have picked up some knowledge. Enough at least to pick up the watering can, fill it and then pour. But apparently not.

Dehydration wasn’t my plants’ only killer. There were these pale green fluffy caterpillars. Gorgeous creatures, but hungry.

I admit, I generously allowed them the sprouts. Butterflies are better than sprouts.

The problem was that the caterpillars wanted everything else too.

So, it turns out that planting 1000 seeds is necessary. In fact, next year I think I’m going to need more, or at least in marketing terms to improve my conversion rate.

However, all is not lost. My ex-colleague, Maple, and I went to London the other Saturday and she look me to a Mexican restaurant. Rather than giving us a mint with our bill, I was instead given some chilli seeds.

Planting begins again!

The recipe-free pumpkin cake

baking pumpknin

I made pumpkin cake, not because it was Halloween, but because the Boyfriend’s mother gave one to the Boyfriend.

As pumpkins go, it was unusual. It didn’t have that traditional squashed look of a pumpkin—it was round like a football, though not quite as large. Last year’s pumpkin was huge and after making a cake I had no idea what to do with the rest. I didn’t have a freezer at the time.

The football pumpkin was not suitable for decorative carving. In fact, it was so challenging to cut that there is now a blister on my finger.

I cooked my pumpkin, slowly just with a little water in the pan on Thursday night whilst I was making dinner. Dinner could have turned out better; I accidentally poured a tin of soup, not a tin of tomatoes, into the pot of vegetables and sausages. Maybe because the pumpkin distracted me?

I left the cooked mashed pumpkin (recipes say grate your pumpkin but my fingers had had enough) in the fridge overnight. The next day I turned on the tablet and searched for a recipe, but recipes inevitably looked like too much fuss or wouldn’t use up all my pumpkin without me doing some complex maths to scale everything. There were so many recipes with wonderful toppings but I had no cream cheese.

Feeling reckless, I put the pumpkin in the mixing bowl, threw in some flour and sugar, cracked in a couple of eggs and sprinkled in some baking powder. Everything looked a little moist so I threw in more flour. I added raisins and chopped, roasted pumpkin seeds—from the same pumpkin. I beat it all up a bit and recalled that cakes tended to include butter. The butter was solid so I microwaved it until it was liquid and poured it in. I added ginger and mixed spice. Beat it up again, added a little more flour until it looked like cake mixture and dolloped it into a series of bun cases and a small cake tin.

I did use grease proof paper, but rather than carefully cut the paper, I tore off a large enough sheet, scrunched it under the tap, shook it dry and pushed it into the cake tin.

Then I left the cakes in the over until they were springy and could be put on a rack to cool. The cake, of course, took longer than the buns.

When it came to eating the cake, I admit I was a little nervous. Unnecessarily nervous. I had no need to fear. The cake was actually really good. According to the Boyfriend it tastes a bit like a Jamaica cake

Which makes me wonder, are recipe books unhelpful. It’s not the recipe that you need to make a cake, but an idea of why you add the eggs, how thick cake mixture should be, when it looks too moist, and when it looks too dry. Cooking is terrifying to some people. Many only cook a handful of different recipes and do these repetitively. For some, cooking from scratch is a major chore. Yet many of these same people would start using a new phone without consulting a user guide, or sit down in a new car without reading the manual. So are recipe books just making out that cooking is more complex than it really is?


Have you ever made a cake without using scales?


Playing board games: Scrabble

[Why this wasn’t posted earlier I have no idea. Original date is mid-August when some of the tribe and I were staying up in Yorkshire.]

Girl stood under an umbrella doodle

Scrabble. It’s not a game I’ve ever been good at. After the trauma of progressing from Junior Monopoly to real Monopoly I wasn’t trusting grown-up Scrabble. My first real Monopoly game, aged something small, ended with violence. It was all the Father’s fault as mid game he introduced new rules that suited him and didn’t suit me.

Plus, if it was Junior Scrabble or Monopoly then I’d undoubtedly win. The real stuff is more tricky.
I’ve played Monopoly three times in 23 years and I’ve played Scrabble less than that.

I don’t like losing. I like playing the labyrinth game with the Little Mermaid because most of the time I win. I like playing that complex Illuminati game because the rules are expansive, but I know them, and again I win. I like playing chess against the Boyfriend when he’s feeling reckless. He does something mad and then I win.

I don’t like crosswords, pub quizzes or Scrabble.

It came as quite a shock to me that last night I played Scrabble. Especially since I don’t have a scrabble board.

There was a chocolate Scrabble set on the shelf in the living room. But on investigation we found it had few squares and few letters and you were only supposed to have 5 letters in your hand at once.

So we set about creating our own scrabble board. I drew the wonky grid. The Dutch Kiwi cut out letter cards from a cereal box and the Boyfriend wrote the letters on them in wild watermelon Crayola crayon.

home-made scrabble

Thankfully we had a 1996 Oxford English dictionary to hand, so we didn’t have to rewrite that.

We all coloured the grid in, going through many shades of green in the process, as we didn’t have a pencil sharpener. All of us that is but the Grump, who clunked back and forth on the rocking chair bemoaning his lack of literary skill (a bearing had gone).

Then the game started. The Dutch Kiwi was the most creative in generating words using bits of Dutch and Latin in hope they’d be in the dictionary. I wouldn’t have had a clue, but the Boyfriend challenged anything he wasn’t sure of. The Grump managed the longest words, surprising himself as much as everyone else. As for me, without causing a huge fuss and throwing a tantrum, I lost.

What’s your favourite board game?

Thoughts on motorbike racing…

With the Boyfriend

Amusingly everyone fell off their bikes at 6am yesterday morning. Nobody died, so it’s alright to be amused.

Yes, I woke up specially to watch motorbikes riding around in circles.

The Boyfriend, with my permission, turned on the bedroom light. He brought me a mug of tea (he can’t remember that I drink coffee first in the morning despite us living together for over four months) and I tried to open my eyes wide enough to see the screen.

So why was I willing to be woken at such an hour? I’ve no idea, it was just men racing.

I didn’t want the Boyfriend to know who won before me. That would have made me grumpy. It was a Sunday morning and I should have been asleep, I should have wanted to sleep.

The knowledge of tyres, bikes, numbers and teams has slowly crept upon me. It seeped into me, like the vague knowledge of Leeds United football and associated lyrics that invaded my mind when I was living at home. It’s become a game, like turning cards over in hope of getting matching pairs.

MotoGP is easy to follow. They only race at set times, all races are pretty much the same, and the winner is one of a handful of men—those on the best bikes.

Surprises do happen. There was a Brit on the podium this morning. Not yet ‘God Save the Queen’, but he was wonderfully happy to be there.

On the day, it’s pretty much up to the men on the track to make it happen. But, like football it’s mostly about money. Who has the money to make the better bike? Who has the money to pay the better rider?

Yet there’s a team behind each bike, quietly out of the glory using real skills (engineering) to get every edge. I love the moment when the winner rides up at the end of the race and the team clamours at the barrier to celebrate. I also like watching that moment of despair when a rider comes off the track and realising he’s out he stamps around in frustration. Even better, I like that adrenalin-fuelled leap up from the ground, straight off a crash, when the rider jumps back on and races back out. Bruised, but boldly fighting on.

Whereas football—to me—has always seemed as a game to shrug your shoulders to.

Reading lots of books, finishing only a few

I didn’t intend to write an essay.



In casual conversation with the Mother and the Father who visited my humble abode this weekend, I mentioned that I’d just finished reading A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, a book the Mother bought me for Christmas or Birthday.

The Mother wanted to know what I thought.

The Father cut across our conversation in outrage.

“It doesn’t say so on Happenence.”

My debate with my Mother, on the evolution of fiction writing by women, was paused whilst I calmed the Father.

It’s true I haven’t written about any of the books I’ve read in a while. Part of this is the entropic nature of my reading habit, which means all books tend towards an unordered, chaotic state of half read.

Books I haven’t finished

In other words, I’m half-way through seventeen different books. This means I’m not finishing books, I’m just starting more and more. If book reviews only focused on the first half of a book I’d be fine.

I never used to read multiple books simultaneously. Then I met MathsBio, who was always half-way through half-a-dozen books, and my sense of normal changed.

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George had been on my ‘reading’ list for years. I’ve read 655 pages of tiny print and I love it, but I’ve fallen for Cleopatra and genuinely believe she won’t die if I don’t read the end. Yes, I know it’s bonkers, but it’s a twisted internal belief and those things are almost impossible to shift.

I’m also half-way through The Classical World | An Epic History Of Greece And Rome by Robin Lane Fox. I’m up to Julius Caesar. Soon he’s going to die; Cleopatra will follow. History is full of such deaths.

Like the Iliad where a dozen people dying on a page isn’t unusual.

Not all tragedy is death. Christine, in The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, is similarly about to have something go awfully wrong in her life. I can feel it. I was so in love with the book that I’d become accustomed to the grating present tense writing, yet the impending doom is preventing me picking it back up.

I’m sabotaging the stories by refusing to accept the inevitable.

Do you ever do this?

Books I have finished

Books I have finished in the last two months include 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow, Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett, Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, and Painting Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis.

Small Gods

Sir Terry Pratchett is obviously in a class above just about all other writers. I have two more of his books lined up, ready for a rainy day or when I have a cold and need swooping off elsewhere. Small Gods was great because it was about religion, a fascinating topic that needs simplifying to a story of a small whiny god with only one believer if you’re going to get anywhere at understanding it.

The Lacuna

I knew The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver would be well put together with a purpose when I picked it up in a charity shop; I was hesitant at reading it because the only other book of her’s I’ve read was Prodigal Summer, which was well written but I despise the ending (my strong beliefs on the rights of men…).

While the Boyfriend was in Barcelona watching motorbikes races I wrote during the days, read in the evenings and had a rather wonderful weekend. It was a perfect uninterrupted moment for a serious moving book, and the 670 pages of The Lacuna fit perfectly.

The story, set in Mexico and the USA in the 1920s-40s, took me to a place and time that I didn’t understand or recognise, threw me into a world of communism and surrealist art and left me wondering what it was I did or didn’t know.

Maybe, if I’d read it a few months ago the effect would be different, but I’ve just spent three weeks in Eastern Europe. The Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw—a huge square communist building, a ‘gift’ from Stalin, is tattooed on my mind. I’m still unsure what it is I will eventually write about visiting Warsaw, but I think it managed to stick a lever into my brain and jar it open a little.

Meanwhile kids in Hong Kong—a country I associate with a water theme park where the Midget and I got into trouble for too much splashing, men playing monopoly, bright lights, a clay baked duck and hairy crab—are demanding a democratic voice.

Meanwhile, I know nothing. I’m the girl who happily reads Animal Farm without doubting it’s a fairy tale and only finds out it’s something more years later.

The Lacuna is partly about Snowball, it’s also partly about disfigured truths.

Under the Eagle

Under the Eagle is a much simpler book to comprehend. It’s no great literary work, but it’s a light book to swallow in an evening. Nothing all that much happens. It feels like a first book, but sometimes I actually want something shallow. I wouldn’t buy it, nor the next, but if I happen across it I might well read it.

Painting Mona Lisa

Painting Mona Lisa was a whimsical buy from a charity shop. I read The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, set at the same time, which was enjoyable in parts, but never quite felt that it all went together. Painting Mona Lisa had a similar feel, but had a tighter weave; neither book had a wholly satisfying ending. But Painting Mona Lisa did keep me guessing with its twists, although I think I’m always going to struggle to get completely behind any woman from Savonarola’s Florence.


Switching to non-fiction—Remote was about the benefits of having a work force that chooses where it works. It read like a series of blog posts by a young entrepreneur wanting the world to embrace their new forward thinking creative ideas. Whilst I’ve no problem with people having control of their lives, and businesses respecting their employees as people, not just cogs, the book lacked any feel of concrete science. It sounded more like propaganda. In my experience, most books like this could do with heavy editing to at least be halved in volume. They’re too repetitive. You read along thinking ‘yes, but what else’.

44 Scotland Street

And finally a book written for a newspaper.  Alexander McCall Smith’s characters are always soothing to read. I loved The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. They’re light books but colourful. I read 44 Scotland Street in a couple of evenings, mostly from the bath.

The origin in a newspaper as a series of very short chapters, each showing a very complete scene, is clear. Each scene is an amusing snapshot. Each character is almost a caricature, presumably to keep them memorable. The book was enjoyable, but you never truly sank into it. The plot never seemed to pick up pace, which wasn’t a problem, but was noticeable. I’m going to read the sequel, not for the story, but because of the style. It’s different enough that I feel that something can be learnt from reading it.

Anyway, that’s enough for now.