The Golden Notebook

(SPOILERS ahead.)

The Golden Notebook, perhaps Doris Lessing’s most famous work, is deep. Heavy-going is to put it lightly. It really takes it out of you.

It’s also not at all what I was expecting. I came into The Golden Notebook pretty much unaware of anything about it, including the plot. I bought it because I was about to start a three day long train journey halfway across America and it was on offer on Kobo (£1.99 – bargain!). Light travel reading it is not, not only with the subject matter, but also with the length, and also with the structure.

Anna, an author of a successful book which has provided for her since its release (and our protagonist), has 4 separate notebooks, each one used for a different purpose – a red one to note her dealings with the communist party, a yellow one to write potential new stories, a black one to remember and document her time in Rhodesia and a blue one in which is recorded her thoughts, feelings and dreams. These notebooks, along with a section called Free Women, make up the beginning of the book, and as such give it an unusual structure. You spend hours reading about Rhodesia, and suddenly your in the middle of a fictional story written by Anna, a warped version of her real ruined and ended relationship. It really takes some getting used to, but the disjointedness is intended – Anna can’t put her whole life together successfully, and that is demonstrated just through the structure.

More than anything else, this is where Doris Lessing shines. She could tell us the whole story in the third person, or even have Anna just writing one single diary, but through throwing the plot around, as well as the style in which Anna writes, it creates far more discomfort and confusion than could be created through mere text alone.

Anna’s journey is uncomfortable. It’s amazing how some elements of her life seem like universal truths to women, both of that time, and of now, and how some of them are very exclusive to Anna. She is very much her own person, but she is also so relatable that when she starts to lose her focus on reality it can be very discomforting to read. There were times where I would feel like I was going mad because she was, a very strange sensation indeed. I’m not sure if that would be the same if I were a man reading this book – more than any book I have read The Golden Notebook seems to be very feminine, even more so than Jane Eyre; there are events, or even feelings, that she has that just seem to sum up certain aspects of being a women (though she also has some that are very alien to me). Even just her talking with her best friend Molly is so accurate of how women talk with each other – even if I have never spoken on the topics about which she speaks to Molly with my own friends, I can appreciate how they talk, how comfortable they are with each other, and the manner with which they speak.

I still have not finished it as I’m not sure if I will enjoy where Anna’s journey ends. It is a difficult book to read, and much like The Handmaid’s Tale it is disturbing, essential reading – especially for women – and has affected me quite strongly, to a degree that I was not really expecting. I would highly recommend it.


USA in Photos

America is really photogenic. The National Parks, instantly recognisable icons, busy streets and empty, stunning scenery on the side of the highway. It’s all so beautiful that there is a dilemma whether to just take in the views or spend the time capturing it on film. My one month trip to America (post-camp) was broken up nicely as pre-car crash and post-car crash: our car was written off in Las Vegas. Following the crash, I bought a new memory card for my camera, so I also have pre- and post- crash pictures.

I don’t really know what my aim is when I take pictures. Sometimes the photos are captured for this blog, or because the views are incredible and I just want to remember it. Other times they’re for Instagram, and sometimes because they are just funny pictures. But I am not an expert photographer, nor do I intend to be.

Anyway, that is a roundabout way of saying these are some pictures from my travels round America post-car crash.

The Hoover Dam.
Grand Canyon.
A New Orleans cemetery, from the outside.
On the train, welcome to Yazoo City.


A church in New Orleans.

Go Greek at Loyola University, New Orleans.
Flying the flag at the Grand Canyon.
Near the market in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
A criminally beautiful Forever 21 in Washington D.C.
“Reporting from outside the White House…”
Work being done on the Capitol Dome.
The Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument on the Potomac River.
A beautiful quote in D.C.’s Holocaust Museum.
On the banks of the Hudson River.
Which bridge over the Hudson? I don’t know – maybe Brooklyn!?
A little boat just doing its thing.
Need I say? The Statue of Liberty, baby.

If you like these there are more on my Instagram.

Do like taking photos when you travel? Why do you take yours?

Film of the Week: Airplane!

Film 4, Sun 30th November 7.15pm

Credit: Wikipedia

It’s funny – I was having a family dinner last night with my parents, and in the course of chatting about flying Aiplane! came up in conversation. Both my parents kept giggling to themselves about scenes in the film, and I said that I had never seen it. Apparently, according to my dad, “Oh, it is funny”. (A direct quote ladies and gentlemen – my dad is a man of few words.) Anyway, I went to find a FOTW for this week, and there I saw Airplane! – there was no way I couldn’t pick it! Let’s see if it lives up to my father’s high praise.

Off to France

So this is going to be a short and sweet post, because I’m busy getting ready to go to France for 5 months to work a ski season. (!!!) I am a bit excited.

I don’t know how I’m going to fare – I hate the cold (and it is going to be really cold), but I love France, and I love working abroad so hopefully it should be as amazing as everyone tells me it will be. I’m busy doing my final pack, getting all my big fluffy ski stuff to fit in one tiny suitcase, so I’ll leave you with this clip of Jake Wood and Janette Manrara doing the Samba on Strictly this week. Did it deserve the two tens it got? Maybe not, but Jake was twerking for heaven’s sake! So much fun to watch.

For the love of jazz

As some of you may know, this past summer I travelled across the US by train making stops in cities as I went. In a two week long trip I visited five cities so, as you may expect, this resulted in almost whistle-stop experiences in these cities, with certain elements of the places having more of an effect than others. In Chicago and New Orleans that effects was music, more specifically – jazz.

I have never been much of a jazz enthusiast. Honestly, I think something gets lost between the transfer of the live act and the recorded product. All I had heard, if I’m being honest, when I listened to recorded jazz was a lot of noise and different instruments doing their own thing. Listening to jazz live though – that is something else entirely.

The stage at the Millennium Park.
The stage at the Millennium Park.

In Chicago I caught the beginning of a jazz festival. This is when the love began – sitting in the Millennium Park, having the music wash over me. The festival was an international one, and the band were from South Africa. They had amazing songs about Nelson Mandela, sung by singers with such beautiful voices and the music was so… smooth. They were just practising – the festival started properly the next day, these were the free practice sessions – but that made it even more exhilarating; they would try different things, not playing it safe, going off the script, laughing together if it went a bit wrong. The whole atmosphere was just so chilled, and there was such a wide variety of people gathered, from kids chasing each other around to old couples sitting together, holding hands.

These guys were amazing. Absolutely my favourites.
These guys were amazing. Absolutely my favourites.

But nothing in Chicago could prepare me for New Orleans. I love this city. Frenchmen’s Street is one of my favourite streets in the world. Unlike Bourbon Street which is insane (and more than a bit disgusting), Frenchman’s is a lot more relaxed, with cool little bars, small clubs and markets where you can buy trinkets and artwork. Yet, what I absolutely loved was how there was just amazing music playing on the streets, with crowds gathered around the musicians, so close to the artists. There was one group, my favourite, that even had a tuba player – I hate to think where he lived to have to drag that with him all the time. The music just brought everyone together, and seemed to give the city an incredibly relaxed feel. Jazz could be found everywhere – I saw jazz musicians by the river, in the market place, in burrito restaurants; the music happily invaded the city.

My time in America – in these two cities especially – has made me love jazz (live jazz, I still can’t quite love the recorded version). I would love to go back to both cities for longer than just a few days (and with more money!) so I could spend more time hunting for smaller, more intimate settings in Chicago instead of a music festival, and find the really crazy jazz in New Orleans, where people just let go completely and play something truly amazing and unique. Until then, however, I’ll just have to search out jazz at home, and anywhere else I travel.

How do you feel about jazz? Do you think there’s a difference between the live and recorded final piece? Let me know!

Film of the Week: First Blood

ITV4, Wed 19th November 10.00pm

Credit: Wikipedia

Full disclosure: I have never seen Rambo (or Rocky for that matter) which is why First Blood is the FOTW instead of, say, Dog Day Afternoon – which I also haven’t seen – or even X-Men: First Class – which I have seen (and loved). I have no idea what this film is like, and am worried it will be seriously terrible, just not my type of thing, but people have waxed lyrical about Rambo at me for years. Why haven’t I seen it? Don’t you know it’s just the best? Well, I guess this week I find out. My hopes aren’t high, but I hope (really, really hope) I’m proven at least a little wrong and am pleasantly surprised. Plus, I loved Son of Rambow, so can only wish First Blood will be half as enjoyable as that heart-warming little film. Here’s hoping it’s a new guilty pleasure.

My Favourite Episode: 30 Rock

MILF Island

Credit: Wikipedia

I LOVE 30 Rock. Just writing about it has caused a 30 Rock binge – I will not apologise. Alec Baldwin has just fantastic comic timing, and Tina Fey never fails to make me laugh; these two are the centre of the show and their on-screen chemistry is insane, I could laugh at them forever. The first two seasons of this genius show are some of my favourite television ever made, and so this made picking a single episode really difficult. In the end I went with ‘MILF Island’ (very closely followed by ‘Tracy Does Conan’), an episode so crazy, and so funny, that it just demands a rewatch (and a rewatch, and a rewatch…).

Some 30 Rock background: MILF Island is a fictional television show on NBC, and what I love so much was that it wasn’t a fictional show that came out of nowhere, arriving just for that episode – earlier in the season Jack mentions it being a hit summer replacement show (along with America’s Next Top Pirate, a show I am personally dying to see).

‘MILF Island’ the episode is set during the fictional finale, and everyone, bar Liz, is dying to see who wins. Unfortunately for the writing staff of TGS, they are unable to watch the show because Jack is on a manhunt: someone on the TGS staff gave a quote to a gossip columnist, saying that Jack “was a Class-A moron”, and he wants to find out who it was, and has enlisted Liz to help him.

The episode gives me everything I need from 30 Rock: twists and turns, a lot of Jack and Liz interaction, Kenneth truth bombs, the rest of TGS having Tracy pull them into a Lord of the Flies parody, Liz flirting (badly), and a hell of a lot of whimsy and craziness. It also has Tina Fey pulling diabolical faces – the world needs more of that just in general, in my opinion – and it makes fun of reality TV. What more could you ask for?

Diabolical Liz Lemon. Credit: Serial Mente

My sister and I are always trading Youtube clips from 30 Rock. It’s genius. ‘MILF Island’ is 30 Rock on top form, at the height of it’s game. For me it’s the best episode: what about you?

Agree? Disagree? Tell me below!