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Monday, June 28, 2010

Hard shoulder reading and the general laments of an exile

A wise man once advised me to never leave the house without a book and apple and how right he was. We had been looking forward to the Dorset wedding of two dear friends for weeks, nay, months and on Friday afternoon I loaded up the car with glad-rags, left enough food for the weekend out for the cat, put out the bins and sped off towards the Normandy coast where we were due to take an overnight ferry to Portsmouth.

It is just as well that I remembered the book and the apple as our car broke down on a motorway on the outskirts of Paris and we were, to be honest, totally buggered. This was a car that was probably not a wise investment in the first place. It was 14 years old and had 250,000 km on the clock when we bought it. When I described it to my Nan, she asked “who gave it to you darling?” and our best friends commonly referred it to as “the shit box”. I tried to mitigate its obvious awfulness by giving it a name. In tribute to its Frenchness and age I called it “Edith”.

So on Friday night, I was jolly pleased that I had packed A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I sat on the smelly, stuffy, hard shoulder of the A86, surrounded by nettles, nibbling my apple, and read. The book is proving to be a most interesting companion, of which, more later.


This has been one of the few moments in France when I have felt the pangs of an exile. Another was when I learned of Paul Willett’s Noho Noir evening in Fitzrovia, which is to take place on 1 July. I wrote about Paul’s excellent Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia here and thoroughly recommend him as a guide to the dark passages and hidden histories of one of London’s most fascinating areas. There will be readings, there will be discussion so if you are in or about London on Thursday and might like to attend you can read more details here. All interested parties should book online and see where Fitzrovian history leads them!

27 comments:

  1. WOW--I have the book part down but I am going to have to remember the apple part! I never leave the house without a book and a blanket--though in the summer in TX more to be sitting on than covering up with :)

    ~Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog

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  2. can not wait to hear your thoughts on the Byatt book and if you made it to that wedding? pgt

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  3. Hi Felicia - the apple is an important part as far as I am concerned - but I can see the sense in a blanket especially as the winter here in France was freezing!

    Little Augury - I look forward to reporting! Sadly, i am mortified to say that we missed our ferry and missed the wedding altogether.... We had to wait for over two hours to be towed off the hard shoulder and then spent ages in a broken down car depot in western Paris with lots of clapped out vehicles and a very large dog.

    Oh well, at least the sun has been shining all weekend and continues to do so today!

    Hannah

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  4. Sorry your weekend didn't turn out as planned.
    I look forward to hearing what you think of The Children's Book.

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  5. Oh no, breaking down is AWFUL, how frustrating for you.

    I really enjoyed The Children's Book but have read quite a lot of negative reviews so I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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  6. How awful for you and your car! Thank goodness you had a book to keep you company. I want to read that one as well.

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  7. Oh Hannah! I am so sorry to hear about your car!! Hopefully you can get it fixed soon, or just scrap it and get a new one!! I also just bought a copy of The Children's Book a few months ago and I am anxiously awiting the time I can read it. I do so love Byatt and think that she's brilliant. I do hope that you enjoy the book!

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  8. Oh, wow! I am so sorry for the fall out from your broken down car -- no weekend, no wedding, that rots!
    Amused by Books and I talked about doing The Children's Book for another read along -- but decided, no. Can't wait to read your thoughts.

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  9. Thanks for your comments and kind words Linda P, Tea Lady, Diane, Zibilee and gerbera Daisy Mom - I am still plugging on with The Children's Book, but yes,I have gathered that it is quite controversial!

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  10. I much prefer Margaret Drabble to A.S. Byatt. Will be interested in your thoughts.

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  11. I try always to have a book, chocolate, and a sweater (even in Texas, sometimes restaurants etc. are FREEZING, they turn the a/c up so high). I'm sorry to hear you missed the wedding but glad you had good reading material! I have a copy on my to-read shelf, bought it for $2 at the last Friends of the Library sale. I may have to move it up on my to-read list.

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  12. I know it must have been obnoxious at the time, but this whole escapade sounds romantic to me. The book! The apple! Paris! Edith!

    Can't wait to hear more about what you read.

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  13. Poor car and poor you in exile... excepting that The Children's Book sounds intriguing and I await the 'more later'.

    I have loved two battered cars and still think on them with affection.

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  14. Funny my great Uncle used to say the same thing except he'd say without a book or a clean handkerchief.

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  15. Patti, Karen, Connie, Aguja and Petty Witter - Thank you all for visiting and commenting. Clean handkerchief, chocolate, sweater and blanket being added to my list of must-haves!

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  16. Love your friends description of the car! I was stuck for three hours at Coventry station recently (signal failure) Thank goodness I had a book.

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  17. Good advice about the apple, but how do you prevent a big book squishing it? Ah your poor car, sometimes love overrides common sense and that car sounds like a labour of love to keep going.

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  18. I'm with you, I never leave home without a book... and sometimes a backup in case I finish the first. Think of how much worse your car situation would have been if you hadn't been able to read something. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book too!

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  19. I must remember the apple, it's a lot healthier than my normal chocolate choice, and almost certainly more enjoyable on a hot day. Looking forward to your thoughts on the childrens book.

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  20. I have been trying to find that Byatt book for some time now, someone has been sitting on it for months

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  21. I loved The Children's Book and was sad that it didn't win the Booker Prize last year.

    Sorry about your ghastly trip and missing the wedding!

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  22. Excellent advice! I'll have to remember the apple, too. :)

    Found you at Julie Musil's blog. :)

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  23. I am sorry your car broke down! I hope you made it to the wedding :) The Children's Book is on TBR and I can't wait to read it! :)

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  24. Fitzrovia is a really fascinating area - so many writers hung out there.

    There is an award for you at my blog.

    http://atmysoiree.blogspot.com

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  25. I need to have my eyes adjusted: at first, I thought you were surrounded by nettles nibbling your apple (I missed the comma).

    But you missed the ferry and the wedding, which was much worse. Please accept my condolences, and next time bring a thermos of hot water for nettle tea.

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  26. Ouch! I never leave home without a book either. Never know when the car will break down, the tube will be shot, or you'll be waiting endlessly for someone who has no sense of time. Not that keen on the apple bit.... I'd always go with a bar or two of chocolate - not as healthy, but...

    Glad to know you're enjoying the Byatt. I'm planning on reading it soon as well.

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  27. I'm part way through The Children's Book and looking forward to what you have to say about it. I'm sitting a little more comfortably than you were though.

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