How to make a moose smile

Bored now. Following random thoughts around Facebook at two in the morning after Buffy is not a good sign. My long walks have tailed off a tad too. When will life be normal again? Will it ever be normal again?

Its late July, the town should be plastered with show posters, the Pleasance should have it’s bar built by now, George Square Gardens should have a giant purple upsidedown cow being inflated in it, Bristo Square should be all cordoned off as this year’s creation is created, Charlotte Square is empty and locked up. I’m not bored – I’m down!

But then, sometimes in the wee small hours following Facebook trails can throw up wonderful things. Things like John Robertson talking about mental health stuff, the guy is just sooo brilliant. Yes, he’s scary too, and definitely not for everyone, but if you get him you love him (like marmite, or vegemite).

Quick scrolling through, he’s a pandad. What?! Yep, he’s a pandad in an inflatable panda outfit. This guy has not let a little thing like Covid19 slow him down, John Robertson seems to have slipped online with ease. He does a lot of stuff on something called Twitch, sigh, another new-fangled wotsit. Oo, and a mention of his book The Little Town of Marrowville, it’s doing rather well; apparently Amazon UK had run out again!! Of course, I’ve no idea how many that actually means but hey, it’s got to be good news (unless you have yet to get a copy).

It couldn’t happen to a nicer book! I notice there’s an audio version with Mr Robertson himself reading it, wow, that’s pretty tempting! I could quite hear him as I read it, I could actually hear him with the audiobook, hmmm. I was umm-ing and ahh-ing over getting the book last year, I was aware he’d written it and had brought copies to sell after his Fringe shows. I didn’t, but a good friend went along to Teviot to buy one and even got it signed for me. Hurrah! Best Christmas present last year!

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It’s one of those books that’s supposedly meant to be for kids, but there’s plenty like me who will love it. It’s funny, surreal, dark (as hell in places), sharp, and it has that great Aussie dryness and wit through it. I love how descriptive the writing is, painting vivid pictures of the characters and their surroundings; I’m guessing our author may be utilising some dungeon mastering techniques here? I would definitely place it up there with China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun and Clive Barker’s Abarat as books to expand and encourage young minds. All three are deliciously creative and slightly warped.

Oh, you’re wondering why Neil Gaiman wasn’t included there? These three share a certain type of dark surreality that I don’t find in Gaiman, his darkness is different. I would say, a child who loves The Little Town of Marrowville will go on to like the Abarat series but not necessarily Neverwhere (which is one of my favourite books). Un Lun Dun is from the mind that gave us Perdido Street Station, nuff said, it will open a young mind to all sorts of realms.

So, what words of wisdom did Mr Robertson write in the front of my book?

2020-07-29 20.50.17                                                                I think he nailed it. The answer to life, the universe and everything maybe 42, but this is definitely the answer to, how do you make a moose smile? These words read like a big, warm, reassuring hug. Good man, that John Robertson!

Toodle pip!

Reading on a sunny afternoon

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Basking! Edinburgh has been basking in glorious sunshine! For me, a nice hideaway nook amidst the gorse in Holyrood Park is the perfect spot to soak the sun and a good story. Oh, and occasionally doze off! I do read at home too, but al fresco is so nice. From no reading at all for some while, I’ve read two books over five afternoons and am now on another.

First off was Chris Brookmyre’s offering from last year Fallen Angel. I do like Mr Brookmyre’s works but though I did enjoy Fallen Angel (it is a cracking read) it felt like overfamiliar territory, kind of like how I felt after reading a number of Iain Banks’ books. And I bet most Brookmyre fans guessed the big reveal that I spotted as early on as I did, but no I won’t spoil it here. Oh yeah, and the other big one was no big shocking reveal to me either, that was just standard fare that I’d figured out way earlier.

At least in this book there no ranting about religion or football. In fact, there’s no serious ranting at all, his attacks on conspiracy theorists and truth manipulators are well placed, insightful and not overly sermonising within the characters’ words and deeds. It would be a good holiday read, though if you were in a villa with a shared pool you may find yourself concocting your own conspiracy theories!

Next up, a book I was lent last year (I say lent, it may be one that my friend doesn’t want back, I’m just a dropoff for books charity bound) it’s been looking balefully at me each time I’ve passed it. Okay, so I didn’t think I’d like it that’s why it’s taken so long, it’s The tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. Two afternoons in the park is all it took. I say afternoons, the weather has been so lovely and the story so compelling that it was almost seven o’clock in the evening before I stopped myself from reading “just a bit more” on the first day.

The tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov. It’s a story about the horrors of the Holocaust, survival and love as experienced by one man, a Slovakian Jew who told his story after the death of his beloved wife, Gita. The author has woven a compelling, life-affirming story from Sokolov’s memories; and it doesn’t end there, after the end of the story there’s a postscript, additional info, an afterword from Sokolov’s son, extracts of records from Sokolov’s time in Auschwitz-Berginau, along with photos of Lale and Gita together (how the love shines through). Morris also tells of her trip to Sokolov’s home town which is quite moving. I’m very glad I read it, I must thank my friend when I enquire if it’s to be returned or passed on.

Now its on to Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There which though not brilliant is a good read. I have been lent a Bryson before but after a few attempts handed it back unfinished, probably why this has been sitting around since last year. Well, I’m just over halfway through it! This one caught my interest as it’s about a trip he made around Europe whilst all recounting his earlier backpacking round Europe in the early seventies (I get lost which decade he’s on about at times). I went Inter-railing around Europe in the eighties and can quite relate to some of his younger experiences. Bryson’s friend Katz puts me in mind that one of my older siblings advised me to travel alone as even the best friend is not necessarily a good travelling companion for a whole month (and I was going for two), I paid heed as he was a veteran Interrailer, four times I think. Reading this, yeah, I did right.

Inter-railing. Every new train carriage had the potential of new friends, new ideas; a couple of days seeing mutual must-see things before hugging good-bye and jumping on different trains – another train carriage another adventure! It was while Inter-railing that my love for all things antipodean began. See some of the best characters I met that summer were Kiwis and Aussies, that was what inspired me to go Down Under, that and the knowledge that I was capable of travelling alone.

Oo, I know what I should read next (Aussies, Australia, Tasmania, Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, keep up!) Just got it down from the bookcase, ah, the cinema ticket bookmark still between pages 44 and 45 suggests I last tried to get into it in March 2016. Oops! Wonder if the lender has noticed it still gone? I fear a certain primate will not be impressed with my lack of returning skills, sorry!

It’s said that the charity shops will be overflowing with all the stuff everyone has been clearing out during Lockdown, my friends will have fuller bookcases after my Lockdown!

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Still the loveliest man on the Fringe!

After seeing thirty six shows in the first eleven days I took a bit of a breather, that’s not to say I didn’t wander out to savour the atmosphere, chat to flyerers, mooch around Bristo Square. Mind, I didn’t go out any more than necessary last Sunday, a very very wet day indeed; the old moose cave did need a bit of a tidy round too.

Tuesday I dipped my toe back in, going to see the loveliest man on the Fringe, Aidan Goatley, once again at Sweet Grassmarket. Mr Goatley has a brand new show this year Aidan Goatley: Happy Britain Part I. I knew about his idea to find the centre of all 105 counties in the UK and to ask who ever he finds there what makes them happy, but what happened? Why Part I? Let’s face it, it was a pretty huge undertaking, so bad news – he didn’t manage it as quickly as first envisaged, as so often happens in life; good news – there’s Part II to look forward to next year (touch wood!).

We hear all about the ups and downs of his attempt, along with amazing stories about the folk he’s met on his travels, oh, I could have sat and listened to him all evening, such a wonderful raconteur. Alas the show came to an end, a lovely end which sent us all back out into the world uplifted, glowing with warm fuzziness (like the old Ready Brek advert). In fact after getting home that evening I just had to dip back into his book Never Eat The Buffet at a Sex Club* (*contains no food or sexual references), a collection of his previous work. It was almost like he was in the room reading to me 💛

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That was quick!

Crikey, turn your back for a minute and January runs out on you! Mind it’s not a month that inspires me to do anything but soak in hot baths and read books, though not at the same time sadly. Maybe I should rig up some Heath Robinson type contraption to hold a book and turn the pages upon command, hmmm.

Early in the new year I finally finished Game of Thrones as so far written, so come on Mr Martin, stop sidelining it and finish the next book! Then after all that fighting, treachery, sex and dragons, I had a change and picked up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, yep, very different indeed, and rather absorbing. I did figure out the twisty bit sometime before it was revealed but that’s okay as it was her relationship with workmate Raymond that kept me reading.

Just one thing kept coming to mind, that readers would think, well with a traumatic back story like that, who’s surprised by how she became, she has our sympathy; even while I was laughing at her behaviour, it was with a slight sense of compassionate guilt. Now a character without a dramatic family history, without any sad sympathy vote, the character who is usually a side example of uselessness to show how well our heroine/hero is doing, tell me about them; show me a witty, exasperated, no-schmaltz story about that guy, make me root for them. There’s plenty of loneliness and isolation that just is.

Then from Ms Oliphant to Jack Parlabane, Chris Brookmyre’s crime reporter. I finally got round to reading Black Widow; its been sitting in my bookcase since I bought it at The Caves back in 2016, yes, I had him sign it for me! Mr Brookmyre is very entertaining to listen to, if you like his books then I would heartily recommend catching him at a book event if you can. It was a good read but I did find myself working out his twists (I have read plenty of his books). Mind, he is pretty good at putting in red herrings and side stories to muddy the waters. I was sure from before halfway I knew the “who” and partially “what” with a very slight “it may possibly be her instead”, then he takes another turning and makes the slight into “oo it’s her, the bitch!” Wrong! My first instinct was correct and how. Reckon I’d make a great side-kick to Parlabane! Rugged reporter and his crime-solving moose 😊

Toodle pip!