Karie Bookish Dot Net

Category Archives: News

Shall I Compare Thee to the Great Pele?

After the years of Andrew Motion being poet laureate, him whining about it and his “official” poems going “Better stand back / Here’s an age attack, / But the second in line / Is dealing with it fine”, it is a relief to have Carol Ann Duffy in the seat. Somehow she seems to understand the job better and is able to find poetry in the small things that fill our everyday lives (which, I would argue, is what poetry is all about) and the news story flickering on our screens.

Recently she wrote a poem about David Beckham’s injury which sees him out of the England World Cup squad.

Achilles (for David Beckham)

Myth’s river- where his mother dipped him, fished him, a slippery golden boyflowed on, his name on its lips. Without him, it was prophesised,
they would not take Troy.

Women hid him, concealed him in girls’ sarongs; days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs…
but when Odysseus came,

with an athlete’s build, a sword and a shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd’s roar,
and it was sport, not war,
his charmed foot on the ball…

but then his heel, his heel, his heel…

The poem was originally published in The Daily Mirror, a tabloid, which employs Duffy as a regular columnist. Meanwhile, The Guardian, my newspaper of choice, looks at the poem approvingly but the comments section is where I found the biggest thrills. I particularly enjoyed FinneyontheWing, IantovonScranto and tw*tbeak but I strongly recommend the entire section. It is filled with limp poetry, bizarre imagery and iambic pentameter.

Something of Beauty

“..there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it” – Alexander McQueen

British fashion designer, Alexander McQueen committed suicide today. He was only forty years old. McQueen was one of the very, very few who deserved to be called a genius in his chosen field. I am deeply saddened by his death.

“There was always some attraction to death, his designs were sometimes dehumanised. Who knows, perhaps after flirting with death too often, death attracts you.”

Karl Lagerfeld on the untimely passing of McQueen.

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger has died. I wonder what unpublished works he has left behind?

Losing Its Reputation

“Denmark is losing its reputation for being a good world citizen.” – Naomi Klein

Danish police arrest 150 demonstrators as world leaders arrive at Copenhagen conference. Mainstream groups such as Friends of the Earth have been barred from the conference centre (“Every delegate from the international environmental campaign group arrived at the centre this morning to find their badges were no longer valid.”). This follows the highly controversial preventive arrests by Danish police earlier this week, the arrest of a German spokesman for Climate Justice action, police raids on climate campaigners and, lest we forget, a warm welcome for President Mugabe by Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

“The Copenhagen conference is fast becoming an international shambles.” – Andy Atkins

For me, I welcomed the incredulity on the BBC news readers’ faces as they interviewed a spokesperson, Henrik Suhr,  for the Danish police force, the use of “preventive arrests” and Mr Suhr’s insistence that “if you do not want to be arrested, you should not be demonstrating” (let me draw your attention to the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Rights and, in particular, Articles 19 and 20). The BBC journalists’ reaction were very different to the type of journalism I had grown used to in Denmark in the last decade or so.

And as I’m typing this, a climate deal seems increasingly unlikely.

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past..

.. are condemned to repeat it.

Or, in other words, try reading this news article about Switzerland banning minarets, replace the words “minaret” with “synagogue” and “Muslim” with “Jewish” and then ask yourself what it reminds you of? A simple semantic trick, but a very useful one.

Meanwhile, I have become slightly addicted to Galaxy Zoo. When Earth becomes a bit too much, it’s nice to disappear into space. Literally.

A Strong Brown God (And Soup)

nov09 138

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

– TS Eliot; from “Dry Salvages”; Four Quartets.*

The flood season has begun, in other words. Just south of the Scottish border, a policeman is currently missing as a bridge collapses in the floods. Early this morning I went for a walk along our nearby river, The Kelvin. I have never never seen it this high, although I know one of its bridges was swept away in a flood years back.

On the second photo you can see a bench where I sometimes sit knitting on sunny weekend afternoons. Not much chance of that happening right now! If we get any more rain, I think the pathways around the Kelvin are likely to be closed off. Luckily the river runs in a gorge, so there are no immediate threats to buildings in this area.

As you can imagine it has really been dreich lately so last night I made a warm, delicious soup:

nov09 119

Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup (serves an army of six)

1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 big sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into walnut-sized chunks
2 cups of veg stock (or more, see instructions)
½ tin of coconut milk
½ tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of ground cumin
salt to taste (amount really depends upon the type of stock you use)
1 tbsp of olive oil
optional extras: handful of shredded cheese and dash of paprika

1. Heat the oil and add onion, garlic, chilli, cayenne pepper and cumin. Cook for about 5 min. at medium heat. Add carrots and cook until onion softened. Add sweet potato chunks. Add as much stock as will cover the veg. Put lid and cook until all veg have softened. This will take about 25-30 minutes.

2. Blend the soup – try to aim for a consistency between super-smooth and chunky. Take care you do not splash any of the hot soup on yourself (she says looking at her left hand). Add coconut milk and stir until well-mixed. Serve in bowls with some good rustic bread on the side. I put some shredded (lacto-free) cheese on top and dressed it with a dash of paprika, but I can be a bit poncy at times.

Substitutions etc: I used coconut milk because I’m lactose intolerant. You could easily use double cream, natural yoghurt or regular milk instead. If using milk/cream, you could also add a tin of chopped tomatoes and use basil and marjoram instead for a slightly more Mediterranean taste. Instead of sweet potato you could use butternut squash or even pumpkin. The sky’s the limit.

(*Or, as someone said earlier this week: “water is patient”.)

The Connection Is Made

Sitting here in dark, rainy Scotland does not feel so bad, when I look at the Danish Budget for 2010. Among all the talk about a new super-hospital and whatnot, the government is now going to offer non-Western immigrants up to £12,000 for giving up their legal residency and returning “home”. The Budget also includes £500,000 to mark overseas Danish cultural heritage – particularly the former slave colonies of Ghana and The West Indies. At the risk of sounding cryptic: Denmark is now what the Daily Mail wants Britain to become.

In more personal news, my aunt died this week and my family attended her funeral in rural Denmark today. Although she was a distant relative of mine – I think I met her four or five times – I am very sad on behalf of her siblings, her daughter and her grandson. Rest in peace.

And while I was pondering writing about my life and how it has changed these past ten years, I have decided against doing so. I am amused to note, though, that the Noughties are bookended by me sitting in a dreich Scottish city during November lamenting the lack of double-glazing and proper heating. In 2000 I sat in Stirling (also known as “Hellmouth” – after living there I swore I’d never return to Scotland) and here in 2009 I am sitting in Glasgow. I hope to finish the next decade sitting somewhere warm and sunny. Ha.

Finally, Other Half and I watched a snippet of a BBC programme last night about the Orient Express. We decided that a jolly little train trip would be good fun at some point in the not-too-distant future and today I checked just how much such a jolly little train trip would set us back. £3,700 for the both of us for a jolly little train trip lasting maybe 36 hours and not including any extra frills. I think we may need to rethink that holiday idea.

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today my mother woke me up early. She was crying. Last time she woke me up crying, Olof Palme had just been assassinated. This time, though, my mother’s tears were not angry, horrified and sad tears. She was crying with joy. The Berlin Wall had fallen.

I went to school that day. My teachers cancelled all our scheduled classes and were bust talking amongst themselves. My German teacher – the great-grandson of Paul Gauguin, by the way – sat us down to watch news reports coming in from West Germany. I still recall another teacher crying in the school yard. She was part-German. Today I suspect her German family might have fled here from the East as they never visited any of their relatives until the early 1990s.

Today it is difficult to explain what life were like before the end of the Cold War. I lived in Denmark, a small country just north of both East and West Germany. Occasionally you’d hear stories about people escaping from East Germany across the southernmost Baltic Sea to southern Denmark. Occasionally you’d also hear about people travelling the opposite direction. Swedes were paranoid about Soviet submarines and Danes were paranoid about East German spies within Danish political ranks. I was just a child when it all changed but I could definitely tell something had changed. At school they stopped teaching us how to react in event of a nuclear war, for instance.

Twenty years ago today.

Mad, Bad & Orange To Know

nov09 057Being ill has its benefits. Last time I was stuck in bed for more than two days in a row, I ploughed through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I had previously failed to get into (the plot starts unfolding one-third through the novel). This time around I am knitting whilst listening to podcasts on John Milton (interesting) and Ezra Pound (dull and I even mouthed ‘WRONG’ at my ipod at one point).

I’m knitting with my bright orange 2-ply baby alpaca (yes, the colour is accurate in the photo). It is underspun, rather fragile and almost angora-like soft. And I’m knitting Percy, a pattern which I have previously attempted to knit. I’m now halfway through my second repeat of the dastardly Chart B and I might add in another repeat before doing the edging chart, just to make the shawl a bit bigger. It almost seems a shame to knit an intricate pattern in fuzzy yarn, but the process knitter in me actually Does Not Care. It’ll be a mad, colourful and warm shawl – and I will have conquered Chart B. That is all that matters.

I am still ill, alas, but I think today I will actually get dressed!

And here’s a little news story which may cheer you up:

Rumors of a city of 25,000 lesbians have led hordes of men to contact Swedish tourist authorities and swamp the nation’s Internet providers. Chinese media especially have spread the tale of “Chako Paul City,” supposedly founded in 1820 in northern Sweden by a man-hating widow who banned males, reports Australia’s Daily Telegraph. Inhabitants then turned to lesbianism “because they could not suppress their sexual needs,” goes one recent account in China’s Harbin News service. Swedish tourist authorities are baffled. “I’ve no idea where this came from, but it’s not true,” said a spokesman. “At 25,000 residents, the town would be one of the largest in northern Sweden, and I find it hard to believe that you could keep something like that a secret for more than 150 years.”

(I cannot remember how I came across it – if it’s via you, please let me know so I can credit)

I Am An Immigrant

Last night the leader of the British National Party was part of the panel on a BBC politics programme. I was glad he got the chance to be on the panel. Last time I checked Britain was a democracy with free speech and I thought it just that the leader of the BNP got a chance to speak his mind.

I am an immigrant. I have been thinking of getting a t-shirt going “This Is What an Immigrant Looks Like”. Maybe if I start wearing it, people will tell me why I’m wrong to be in the UK, why my presence is destroying Britain, just how I’m shattering social cohesion and in what way I’m inciting hatred. Also, I’d like to know why people want me to leave the man I love and thus ruin the life we have built together. If I wear my t-shirt, maybe the leader of the British National Party could tell me how my genetic make-up differs from his and why this alleged genetic difference makes me unwelcome in Britain in his eyes.

Earlier this month I was speaking with Anna about immigration and British politics. Our conversation made me wonder about the people who choose to become immigrants – that is, people like me – and whether we share a certain mentality or set of characteristics?

It takes a lot to uproot yourself from where you grew up and go live another country. It is not easy; it is not something you ‘just do’. Once you are in that other country, you have to learn everything a-new. When do the banks open? Where do you go to buy electric bulbs? How do you get a library card? What is the difference between the various supermarkets? What’s my clothes size? All this assumes that you are already fluent in the local language – if not, then you have to start learning that language or, in my case, get to grips with a particular local dialect.

I love living in Britain but it has been a long, labourious process getting to this stage. I love the beautiful landscapes with mountains and glens. I love being able to buy the books and records I want straight off the shelves rather than having to order them from abroad. I love tiny, unexpected things like bunting, rich tea biscuits, finding Roman coins, and Christmas stockings. But I still miss aspects of Denmark and I suspect I always will.

Ah, that reminds me of something which caused a kerfluffle among Danes yesterday (most people did not know whether to laugh or cry): Oprah Tours a Typical Danish Home. Because ALL Danes live like that. Uh huh. Absolutely. Yup.

Now I’m off to make myself some milky tea and some toast (how utterly radical of me!). I hope you have a lovely day no matter who you are and where you live. And be nice to your fellow human beings.