Thursday, 30 July 2009

Bush Bashing

Thrust through the verdant tunnel to
Plunge into the yawning green.
Ferns and fronds drip and drip,
Raindrops shimmer on glossy shiny leaves,
Spider’s webs quiver glistening in the breeze,
Birds beckon; feathered sirens
Luring you deeper, darker, deeper
Into the heart of dampness.
Breaking through the bush line
Where mist clings like a moist poncho
Swaddling arms and movement
In a straight-jacket sheath

Calm quiet with invisible scrabblings
Hidden in the fecund decomposition
Where who know what grows.
Climbing back into the car and locking the doors,
Cocooned in a metallic pupa.
Driving away from the throbbing green centre
Back to the tarmac,
Fumes, dogs and squabbling kids,
Energised but disturbed
By this brush with nature.
Still unfurling; pulsing; reaching; grasping;

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

15 Books

My friend Jo sent me a challenge, which I’d like to share with you and see your responses:

15 Books
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. (In no particular order).

Apparently it’s a facebook thing and you’re meant to ‘tag’ 15 people, but she knows I’m not on facebook and sent it on to me, because “I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose”. Me too – so what are yours? I didn’t read hers first in case I was unduly influenced; it turns out we had one author in common.

Intriguing – the first 15 I think of aren’t necessarily my favourite, but I guess that’s the point. Anyway, here goes:

1. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne; Dad read it to us, with all the voices. I always remember Tigger was a sort of gruff Sergeant Major character

2. The Famous Five­ – Enid Blyton; all 21 of them. We played it at school; everyone wanted to be George and no one wanted to be Anne. I usually ended up as George and my best friend was Timmy the dog

3. Jennie – Paul Gallico; Mr Mowat read this to us in class when we were 12 - a boy is changed into a cat and initiated into the ways of London street by a cat called Jennie. I couldn’t wait for the next installment

4. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë; the ‘mad woman in the attic’ scared the cr@p out of me

5. The Bible – trite but true; great stories; great writing and a creed that has as much influence as anything in my life, whether I believe it or not

6. Watership Down – Richard Adams; I read this as we drove across America – Monument Valley will forever be associated with rabbits in my mind. SPOILER ALERT: When I thought Fiver had died, I cried my eyes out – dad wanted to tell me that he wasn’t really dead; mum wouldn’t let him – ‘she has to find out for herself!’ I realised how my parents work, playing good cop bad cop

7. Animal Farm – George Orwell; so much to answer for – the beginning of my socialist phase

8. 1984 – George Orwell; the continuation of the above

9. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury; more of the same - I read this in 1985 in America, thinking, ‘help, I’m being oppressed!’ I was obnoxious, but the book was brilliant

10. Les Liaisons Dangereuses – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos; the first (non-school text) book I ever read in French. Great story, great characters, and the past historic! I was so proud of myself. I was living in Paris at the time and I started writing smug, cryptic letters to everyone. No one wrote back. I was painfully pretentious – I was 19

11. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley; I borrowed this from the library when I was about 13 and the librarian phoned my mum – ‘Do you know what your daughter is reading?’ Who knew books had such power?

12. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway; oh God, does it ever! So you went to the shop and bought bread and eggs and cheese and butter and tomatoes… Is this a book or a shopping list? The first time I realised that I didn’t have to like ‘the greats’

13. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood; the passage where the girl who is being bullied tears strips of skin off the souls of her feet is one of the most memorable ever. I want to write like her

14. The Cage – Audrey Schulman; I was on the panel for the Dillons First Fiction Award and we reviewed about 30 books – this tale of a woman photographer who goes on an all-male exhibition to photograph polar bears in their natural habitat in Churchill, Manitoba was my favourite of the lot. No one else even put it on their long-list. I still remember the scene of how she prepared for the trip by spending hours cramped in her wardrobe

15. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie; the language, the imagery, the curry! Smells and sounds burst out of this book every time I opened the pages – and he was being oppressed, which made it all the more romantic to me

Interestingly, I never would have said I like science fiction, and yet 3 (possibly 4) of these books fall into that category. Conversely I would have said that I like biographies, and yet not a single one sprang to mind in my 15 minutes. I haven’t put in any Shakespeare, because that counts as a play rather than a book, right? Isn’t it interesting how influenced we are by books when we are young – I guess it really is important what children read.

I look forward to seeing your selections!