The power of words

Had a pleasant dream this morning, in which I complimented a rugby-dad on his taut stomach and persuaded him that mine was not a bit wobbly – as he suggested – but actually nice and soft.  He seemed convinced.

I awoke feeling both confident in the influential power of words, and cheerfully susceptible, when along strode Keith Ridgway. Not the most promising of names, but who needs a potent name when you write like Keith Ridgway; I have admitted to being impressionable, but I think that even at my most sullen and impervious I would have been knocked sideways by him.  This is the start of the story that sucked me into his vortex:

I am ill. I have been ill for some time. Years now. It has become years.

I believe, though I cannot prove, that my illness is due directly to the perverted Catholicism and megalomania of Mr Tony Blair, former Prime Minister, whom I met once, whose hand I physically shook (at which point he assaulted me), and who, if you should mention my name to him, will tell you that he met me, or that he did not meet me, or that he cannot recall. Because he has all the answers.

You can read the rest here and I implore you to do so.  It is genius, and I don’t use that word lightly.  The story is an extract from his recent book Hawthorn and Child, which has now leapt to the top of my reading list.

Next, I found an interesting piece in The New Yorker in which he tries to evade the question of How To Write:

… I wait in terror for the judgements of those others—judgements that seem, whether positive or negative, unjust, because they are about something that I didn’t really do. They are about something that happened to me. It’s a little like crawling from a car crash to be greeted by a panel of strangers holding up score cards.

So, he is genius, witty and wise.  But – whatever – it’s all cerebral.  Until I find his blog.  And this post, which is open and charming and written in a minor key like only the Irish can do, and ends:

All you can really hope for is that the love you feel is not wasted. And you can tell yourself that even if it is – even if it is wasted – it is still love.

And, oh, haven’t we all felt like that and he knows.  He knows, and he feels my pain and I feel his pain and – oh! – I want to marry this man!

But then I notice the strap line on his Twitter account begins: queer Irish writers are two a penny but I cost a pound.

Looks like we could be fighting over that rugby-dad.  I’ll win though, because he likes my nice, soft, belly.

(If you are not yet convinced and require a more considered, authoritive review, click here to visit the asylum)


A happy ending

‘The little girl is dressed up

like a Gainsborough painting again’, Mary calls.

You join her at the window and watch

the frilly parasol twirling in the long dark curls

that lick her bare pale shoulders.

Her mother – ‘must be broke again’, Mary says –

takes her hand and leads her

into the crepuscular Portobello streets.


Continue reading


Today is Bloomsday, the day on which the events of James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place, chosen because it was the day of his first date with Nora Barnacle.

I have not read Ulysses (although I have read the cheat’s guide!*), but I shall be listening to BBC Radio 4’s dramatisation, which is being broadcast in chunks throughout today.  It is available to listen to on iPlayer, or podcasts can be downloaded.

There is a whole Ulysses mini-site on the BBC website, which describes the book as a ‘modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to new heights’.

Joyce liked vulgarity.  He was a dirty old man: just read his letters to Nora.  Not for the lily-livered.  One of the cleaner comments that I enjoyed was:

Here is another note to buy pretty drawers or stockings or garters. Buy whorish drawers, love, and be sure you sprinkle the legs of them with some nice scent and also discolour them just a little behind.

* Also, I own the audio book of Finnegan’s Wake.  Yeah, straight to the hard stuff, me.  I bought it to listen to when a friend and I drove round Ireland for a couple of days.  She listened for about thirty seconds, talked over it for five minutes, then made me switch it off and put on Roddy Doyle instead.

The Graduate

I recently read The Graduate by Charles Webb.  It was a fun and easy read; here is a potted version:

Benjamin came home from college and was fed up.  Mrs Robinson offered him her body.  He refused, cleared his throat and put his hands deep in his pockets.

Later, he was bored and middle class suburban life held no excitement so he arranged to meet Mrs Robinson in a hotel, where they started an affair. Continue reading