“The Red and the Green” round-up and “The Time of the Angels” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


Welcome back to the great Iris Murdoch readalong and today we’re reviewing “The Red and the Green” and looking forward to “The Time of the Angels”. I’ve got a lovely cover to share of “The Red and the Green” in the same series as we saw for “The Italian Girl”. Some of these paperbacks are very weird, aren’t they! In other news, I’ve ordered my next five Vintage Classics, as I am enjoying reading the introductions and updating my collection, and I’ve managed to fill in the last gap in my collection of first editions (just so I can take images for you, my readers, of course!) which happened to be the next three after we’ve done creepy, foggy London (not to mention creepy, foggy Carel). But first a round-up.

“The Red and the Green”

For the book which is possibly the least popular, not to mention with IM herself, apparently, we did get a good discussion going on this one over on my review earlier in the month. People surprised themselves, I think, by getting more out of it than they expected. I’d certainly forgotten that epilogue and was worrying about what was going to happen to everyone as I read through it.

Apart from the discussion, Jo has contributed a great review on Goodreads.

Maria Peacock and Peter Rivenberg, who have turned into real stalwarts of the readalong, submitted their weird edition’s front covers, with Maria offering the blurb, too. The cover is clearly in the same edition we saw last month with “The Italian Girl” and Peter wondered who the figure is (and why are they hiding in the bushes?). Is it a man or a woman (have a look at those fingernails) and why are they dressed like someone from the 60s for a book set in 1916 (oh, wait: it was published in 1968)?

Here’s the blurb:

Book blogger BuriedInPrint came across this and “The Time of the Angels” in a charity shop: this Penguin 1960s cover is clearly from the same edition as the lurid “Italian Girl” one I featured last month:

9 Buried in Print The Red and the Green Penguin

If you have comments to make or links to blog posts or Goodreads reviews to post, you can put them here or (better still) on the review. And if you chose NOT to read this one, I’d love to know why …

“The Time of the Angels”

Now we’re going seriously odd on the covers I have for this novel. I can kind of understand the peculiar figures on the first, but not sure who the woman on my 1983 Triad Granada is (I don’t have a note of when I bought this, which means it was really early on: what on EARTH did I make of it in my mid-teens?). I actually think the Vintage edition’s cover sums it up best for me.

Here’s the blurb from the first edition:

We’ll see that IM is cast as an enchantress or spell-caster in these blurbs, which I love.

Here’s the Triad Granada:

Not so many names here or indeed characters, but obviously inspired by the first one. I do like the Times’ assessment of the book, too!

And my Vintage classic:

So, again, a sort of greatest hits!

I’m looking forward to diving into the dank, murky depths of this one again. There are certainly some memorable scenes, and we’re back with London as a central character, too.

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “The Time of the Angels” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up)? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite?

You will find a page listing all of these blog posts here, updated as I go along.

Book review – Prajwal Parajuly – “Land Where I Flee” #20BooksofSummer #amreading


Slowly, slowly, I’m working my way up that pile of books (although of course it’s my original pile and “The Accidental Apprentice” was abandoned weeks ago (see my page for the project for the up-to-date list). This is actually Book 10 – so it’s a bit of a shame it’s the last day of the second month rather than half-way through the month. And look at the satisfying but also slightly intimidating size of those Viragoes and Persephones to come in August. Gulp.

I have also finished “King of the North Wind” and submitted my review to Shiny New Books, so look out for my link to my review in due course.

So, here’s my review of Book 10 in the project, one of two I bought in Oxfam in October while, presumably, shopping for LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa ideas.

Prajwal Parajuly – “Land Where I Flee”

(25 October 2017 – Oxfam)

In a book which on paper I should have loved, three siblings fly in to Sikkim in Northern India, two from the US and one from the UK, to celebrate their grandmother’s 84th birthday. Two have gone against what would be traditionally expected of them (neither on purpose) but only one’s “error” is known; the other has made a “good” marriage but is desperately unhappy.

We learn a lot about the lives of Northern Indian hijras (the intersex/transgender/trans people who make their living dancing at weddings and other events, in this case a eunuch who uses feminine pronouns and is both exploited and exploiter; this group now has a legal position as the third gender in India), and the difficulties of the Nepali people and those calling for an independent Gorkhaland State (this I knew nothing about), but the book is made a bit uncomfortable-feeling, in my eyes, by the author being from that area and his own author character mining Prasanti for details of her hijra experience. There’s metafiction and then there’s weird grubbiness, somehow. This metafictional character and a really distasteful scene with another character which seemed only put in to echo a scene in the writer character’s book (told you!) really did undermine the book for me; I loved the Caucasian American character and especially the fact that he’s essentially unchanged by his experience in India, which I thought was subtle but very clever, but things don’t really resolve enough for the lover of a family intercultural saga book or in fact for other kinds of readers.

I think the book had too much it wanted to say and get across, and in the process, the characters, even though they should have had plenty to them, fell a bit flat. It was OK, but as it was on paper the perfect book for me, that wasn’t quite enough for me.

This was Book 10 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

I’m currently reading Becky Wade’s “Run the World”, which is irresistibly about visiting different running cultures around the world and has already featured parkrun, and I’m going to save Gurjinder Basran’s “Everything Was Good-Bye” until the end of the project, after the Viragoes and Persephones, because it felt a bit too similar to this one in terms of culture clashes and unconventional marriages (which is why it was dropped in the first round of choices and only made it back in with the removal of “Accidental Apprentice”.


Sedate lady running 23-29 July 2018 #amrunning #running


A slightly odd week this week with not that much exercise. It’s been SO HOT (until the weather broke on Saturday, hooray) and the lack of sleep that has engendered has made everything hard. Plus ordering things on inappropriate days (see below).

Monday – I went with my friend Dave to an interesting talk by Dr Martin Yelling at the University of Wolverhampton about his life in running and his work training other runners. There was a lot of talk of just running for the joy of it rather than always pushing for something which really chimed with me.

Tuesday – I woke up for 5:40 am ready to go for an early run … and heard a quad bike in the distance. We’re really plagued with kids on quad bikes and scooters at the moment, and while I don’t like vilifying all kids, someone out on a quad bike at that time in the morning is unlikely to be entirely benign. So annoying, but I went to club run in the (boiling) evening instead. Hard work dragging round the course, I can’t even remember now if I ran with Claire, who was tail-running; I think I did. Sheesh! It was hot, anyway. I was late up there so my first mile was 11:07, including some under 10:00 mm pace on the way up to the park.

5.4 miles 12:33 mm

Savon de Marseille and Savon d’Alep

Wednesday – Normally yoga day but I had ordered some replacement soaps for myself and of course they arrived at yoga time! I must just tell you about these – lovely pure Savon de Marseille and Savon d’Alep soaps from French manufacturers that I order from Salon du Savon, their soaps are so gentle on my skin, especially as I’m prone to break-outs when I’m sweating a lot, and they help soothe chafed areas, too. Their Savon d’Alep is ethically sourced and supports Syrian producers displaced by the war there. (I don’t get anything from promoting them, I just love them!). So I had lovely soaps but no yoga. Who does stretching on a day they were going to go to yoga? Um …


Thursday – A standard running day for me but it was TOO HOT. It was 86F which is hot for the UK, and very humid. I was just too scared of heat exhaustion etc. to even think of it.

I did get excited this week as my membership pack arrived from the Midlands Association of Athletics Officials. I am, as we know, planning to train as a track and field official as well as an endurance one, and so I was keen to get the book of rules (who doesn’t like a book of rules) and also have a name badge (name plate to follow, apparently) and a special pen that writes on wet paper (again, what’s not to like?). I feel quite “official” having this!

Friday – I was getting twitchy from not running. I didn’t have much time as I was waiting in for yet another delivery, so I went out from 6-6.30. The bin men were out in force, which was nice as they usually wave at me (and did) although the streets were a little pungent! Sunrise was just after 5 and it was still very dawny when I got back, even though it was still 60F at 6am.

Just post-dawn across the rooftops

I was meant to just go out to blow the cobwebs away and felt slow at first, with my watch showing just the time so I could get back in good time. But when 11:19 came up for the first mile, I thought, “I wonder if I could get a negative split (for once)?” and pushed it a bit harder on the next mile. 11:16 for mile 2 – that counts, right? So I pushed a bit more, remembering this is pre-breakfast and I’d only had a light meal for my tea the night before, and I got 11:14 pace for the last half-mile. I was also pleased I’d got my cadence up to 169 spm as it’s 164 naturally. Shows even a sedate lady can go a little faster at times! I did feel a bit queasy when I got home, which is unusual for me but it felt good to have got out.

Oh, and no yoga because I’d ordered a new record player (the cat threw some biography books onto the old one) and it arrived … at yoga time. Gah!

2.5 miles 11:16 mm

Saturday – It was my turn on the rota to lead the club’s half-marathon training. The Birmingham half-marathon is in October (I might even do it again myself this year) and we offer training at a pace of 12-13mm designed for people building their confidence and distance. It’s a lovely group to support as people are mostly running the longest they’ve yet run and it’s great to help them build up. Here I am in club “alternative” kit (the one anyone, as opposed to just members, can wear):

Club-branded Liz

Slightly odd hair caused by going out with wet hair to keep cool. It was actually a nice cool morning with a breeze and even some drizzle – such a difference! It was a lovely run with a group of 9 plus me. I greatly admire Helen, who ran longer than she has in a while, and Sara, battling through plantar fascitis and it was great to help the others achieve something. I led very much from the back but was glad to have more sedate folk to run with and the speedier ones ran ahead then waited at big junctions. I am not phased by this as I have the knowledge I’ve run two marathons and one DIY one and can run for 6 hours – it does help!

And in the afternoon it REALLY RAINED! Look!

Actual rain!

8.7 miles total with the 7.5 mile training run at 12:39 mm and the runs to and from 11:29 and 11:57

And that was it for the week, because I’m going to try for a good long one on Monday, along the canals, in preparation for my 18 mile race on 11 August.

Anyone got any tips for Sara on beating plantar?

Miles this week: 16.6

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 590 miles (well on track – needs to be 583 by the end of the month and I have a run in hand to do tomorrow!)

Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here

Book review – Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do” #20BooksOfSummer #amreading @KOKEdit @DoctorSyntax


I’ve been a bit absent on this blog this week – sorry! I finished this book ages ago and have been absorbed in Henry II (you’ll have to wait for my review of “King of the North Wind” until it’s out on Shiny New Books, and no, I haven’t quite written it yet. Or finished the book). I’ve had a lot of work on this week and just don’t seem to have got round to writing this review, especially as it’s quite a special book.

Being Book 9, you can see the white spine, well, well over half way up the pile you can see in the pic. So I’ve probably got fewer pages to read before the end of the challenge than I’ve read already (right?).

You see, I basically bought it because it had a chapter by a friend of mine in it. Whoo hoo! But I read it all because it was fascinating, engaging and useful. Hooray!

Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do”

(15 October 2017)

The book’s subtitle – “The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing” very aptly sums it up. Oh, and it’s beautifully edited itself, too. After an excellent introduction giving us useful definitions (trade, mass market and scholarly publishing, for example) and the three phases of editing (acquisition, text development and publication), Ginna shares that he is optimistic about the profession, which sets the scene for a fascinating and engaging read. We then have a series of wonderful chapters covering the bigger themes of acquisition, the editing process, publication, categories and varieties of careers in book editing. Although I am an editor, I only cover the text development side of things (and then narrower categories within that, as I tend towards line and copy-editing and proofreading rather than developmental editing) so it was a revelation and great learning experience for me to find out more about how the publishing industry works as a whole.

All of the chapters are fascinating in their different ways, and the chapters aren’t too long and are full of personal experience and honesty (with lots of people admitting all sorts of mistakes along the way, with Matt Weiland even outlining a Terrible Error he made with someone’s book, which is very refreshing but very like the edibuddies I’ve come to know during my career), so it’s engaging and attractive to read all the way through and never dips or drags.

The book is full of great, down-to-earth advice. Some things appear more than once, so are obviously hugely important, the two main ones I noticed being never buy a book you don’t love and there’s a lot of emphasis on making sure the writer’s voice and intent shine through in everything you edit which I think would reassure writers.

The categories or genres section is full of really interesting case studies – especially the one on developing and editing the different kids of children’s books by Nancy Siscoe. I was pleased to read that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (which I reviewed here) was the best memoir that Jonathan Karp has edited, and I enjoyed Betsy Lerner’s experience of being edited herself (I wrote about my experience of that over on my work blog here).

I enjoyed Carol Fisher Saller’s piece on the nuts and bolts of copyediting (I read her book a while ago and loved it), especially her comparison of different ways in which different style guides expect editors to format abbreviations, etc. and her discussion of “the mistaken belief that there is a single ‘correct’ way to render a piece of writing” (p. 110). This is something I’ve encountered with some of my own clients and I’ll be quoting from the piece when I write an article for my work blog on this topic: it was great to see it treated here.

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s chapter on making a career as a freelance editor, which is of course is super, is what I bought the book for and how I knew about it, but I stayed to read all the chapters and the whole thing was a complete delight.

I would recommend this book to all editors, writers and people generally interested in the process of how books get from ideas to the printed (or electronic) page. The chapters I’ve singled out are by no means the only stand-out ones: it’s of a very good quality and level of interest throughout.

This was Book #9 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.

I’m currently finishing off “King of the North Wind”, and very good it is, too (I’m learning an awful lot about this not-well-known king) and I’ve just started on Prajwal Parajuly’s “Land Where I Flee”, which promised to be a very good and entertaining culture-clash story about returning to one’s roots. What are you reading? How are you doing with your 20 Books of Summer or other challenges?


Sedate lady running 16-22 July 2018 #amrunning #running


First of all, thank you to everyone for your comments on weight training last week – very helpful indeed and a lot to think about. I am definitely going to add some in and am looking at the schedules at my gym as it makes sense to use my membership for more than just yoga: there are some Fit in 30 classes which are apparently HIIT classes and I’ve also found a Spin class on a Wednesday which would give me time to get home, shower and pop back for yoga, which might be a good upper-body strength and cross-training option. I’ve also added a new sport this week – read on for details!

Tuesday – I went to club run even though it was hot: I ended up running with the tail runner (lovely George, who’s recovering from costochondritis (inflammation of the intercostal muscles) so a nice chat about that, as you do. Because I was running with the tail I thought I’d done “badly” however my pace was quite normal for a Tuesday night with all the hills. I was a bit out of breath and wobbly: I hadn’t quite realised how my reaction to the horsefly bite I got on Sunday was affecting me (it didn’t get infected – yay – but it did react allergically and blew up – boo; I’ve still got a 1/2 p sized bit of skin missing on my thigh!). But I got round.

One good thing was that I got out my second new pair of Saucony Guide 9 trainers – I’d previously got sore toes with the others ones. I relaced these in the way I usually do to get my heels back and supported (using that last hole to create a loop then threading the laces through: do these pics make sense?):

Special lacing from the side

I kind of kicked my heels right back into them when I put them on, and loosened the laces at the toe end and they seemed to be OK. Phew! I will relace again the other pair and try them out on a short run.

5.3 mi, 12:20 mm (including an 11:07 first mile because I thought I was late)

Wednesday – Dave yoga. I was extremely rubbish – stiff and shaky, almost walked out at one point. I think it was still the effects of the bite, plus the 14 miler on Sunday. Bah.

Thursday – I eschewed Jenny’s offer of a morning run as I can only do about 5.8 miles before breakfast and I wanted to do 7 to bring Sunday’s planned run to the total for the week. MAN it was hot. I met Mary Ellen at 6pm, she could only fit in an hour before going for a curry so we did a big loop then headed for the breezes and shade of the park.

We were just talking about different sports and I was saying how Matthew likes badminton when we heard a shout of my name, and it WAS Matthew, and I got him to take a pic of us running, because everyone on the link-up seems to manage to get pictures of themselves running. Even though I’m talking in this one, I think it’s great of both of us (Mary Ellen on the left, me on the right) and it also shows the kind of suburban streets we run down.

Mary Ellen and Liz

Note, I’m wearing longer leggings because I still had a dressing on my bite! Once in the park I carried on round and round. I saw my club mates gathering for their canal run or hills training and said hello to them. And I didn’t manage 7 miles because I was TOO HOT – I did 5.8, which of course I could have done a lot more comfortably at 6 AM. Grr. I walked up all the hills to conserve energy so was pleased with my pace: I managed to get a 200 yard 9-10 mm sprint in at the end.

5.8 mi, 12:07 mm

Friday – Claire yoga. Jenny came with me as her class was cancelled and we had a lovely coffee and catch-up afterwards. Much better class, I felt good and managed a lot more flexibility. I did giggle looking in the mirror wall – Jenny looked SO serene, I had a big frown and a concentrating face on!

Saturday – There were free tennis sessions on at a few places, organised by the British Tennis Association, and Matthew and I went down to the cricket club, which has a tennis club, because my running friend Lynda (who runs for sister club Bournville Harriers) was going to be there and I was a bit nervous. It was SO MUCH FUN and I def want to make space for tennis in my life again. I last played 15 years ago and Matthew more like 30 – but with some brilliant coaching from Lynda, my serve improved dramatically and I was able to enjoy it a lot. My shoulder, arm and ribs ached a bit on Sat and Sun but not too badly.

As I don’t have many friends who play locally and Matthew can’t do daytimes, I’m working out what to do now, but I’m hoping to do their Rusty Rackets course with him in the autumn to get our technique up to scratch. Came back with more suntan and a big smile!

Sunday – Pete from club wanted to organise his own half-marathon training on Sundays – we have an official scheme on a Saturday that I help with. As he advertised it at 11-12 mm and said he’d not leave anyone behind, I and a few of the sedate ladies decided to go along. It was great fun, a lovely group of people, some of whom I’d not run with before (note that Trudie and Caroline did NOT coordinate their outfits this time, although we seemed to get a message to wear black or blue/turquoise …)

Sunday unofficial half training crew – thanks, Pete (third from left, back row)!

We did about 6 miles together; I wanted to do 8.9 to bring my total for the week to 20 so ran to the other side of the park with Caroline then did a bit more on my own. I was pleased with my splits, given all the HILLS (we did a load of the half route and it has HILLS, gave a few of us flashbacks to the Birmingham Marathon), and a nice sprint at the end:

I did giggle at the Strava segments I PR’d in this run – I did NOT name these …

A great run and I will join in again – I’m leading the official training on Saturday so will miss Sunday’s one next week.

A good week all in all, very pleased with being able to run in the heat a bit more … well, I won’t say easily, I was panting for ages in the house on Thursday and took a while to stop sweating today, but I’m used to it. I will probably run early on Tuesday as it’s set to be over 30 (86) temperature wise, not sure about Thursday, then the half training next week, adding up to 20 miles I hope, then a long run on the Monday to be my last long one before the race on Aug 11.

Hope you all had good running weeks. What’s your top tip for surviving the head and how many buffs / head wraps do you have in your drawer?

Miles this week: 20.1

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 573 miles (on track – needs to be 583 by the end of the money)

Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Christopher McDougall – “Born to Run” plus #BookConfessions #20BooksOfSummer #amreading


I turned to this book with excitement as I haven’t read a running book in a while and this is supposed to be one of the classics. Bought in Penzance in October 2017 (get me with my being caught up!), it represents Book 8 in my #20BooksOfSummer project, which feels like some progress (I’m already reading Book 9, and Books 10-12 are two novels and a running/travel book so that all feels doable by the end of the month). I did acquire some books this week: I had a slightly unexpected dentist appointment (my old dentist had a habit of rescheduling so my March-September appointments have slipped, thank goodness for their text reminders) and popped into Oxfam books to see if I could find a nice novel, came out with … well, you’ll see below.

Christopher McDougall – “Born to Run”

(02 October 2017, Penzance charity shop)

Far from being the polemic about shoeless running from the start through to the end that I was expecting, this is a very engaging narrative non-fiction book. He spends most of it in shoes, actually, although he is, as expected, in careful pursuit of the elusive Tarahumara people of Mexico, the best ultra-runners in the world. He tracks them down with the help of a strange and elusive feral man who turns out to have been so inspired by supporting them through a US race that he gave everything up and built his own shack in the mountains – hardly the most suitable chap to set up a race or even manage to meet, but McDougall seems to manage to gel with him and find a charm in him, as he does in (almost) everyone).

McDougall weaves in a lot of history and information about the sport of long-distance running, especially in the US (claiming it peaks in national crises), and I loved how other runners I’ve read about earlier get woven into the narrative, too, from Deana Castor‘s Coach Vigil through Dean Karnazes (McDougall is not a fan, it’s safe to say) to Scott Jurek, who he has a lot of time for and spends a lot of time with. I’d already read about Jurek’s run with the Tarahumara so it was lovely to have this triangulated from an outsider’s point of view, backing up the impression of him as an all-round nice guy, fitting in nicely with Coach Vigil’s emphasis on being a good person as well as a good runner.

I also very much liked the (non-sexist, non-creepy) celebration of some of the amazing women of ultra-running, very much strong and equal to the men, with higher proportions finishing ultras than men have, interestingly (this might just be in the US, although I know some super tough female ultra runners here, too!). An oddball set of characters, including one woman, is assembled for the first Tarahumara/US race on Mexican paths, and I really liked the mutual respect the two groups show each other in this section, exciting as it is, but also very human.

The stuff on barefoot running and humans being born to run is all backed up scientifically and almost made me throw out my shoes (I have one leg longer than the other, so I feel I fall into the small percentage of people that McDougall admits do need support and orthotics!) – I will certainly work on foot and ankle strengthening, though. I can see how it makes people espouse that and he’s careful not to be too stary-eyed and pushy about it and to advocate taking care (and the barefoot runner in the race does suffer somewhat, so it’s not all shown as being easy).

It’s an exciting book, full of risk and danger, but not too gung-ho: McDougall is honest about his own short-comings as a runner and all he has to learn, and indeed his mis-steps in the process of studying the Tarahumara. I can see why this book is considered a classic and heartily recommend it.

This was Book #8 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.

So I didn’t exactly pick up a light novel in Oxfam! Here we have Simon Garfield’s “On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does” which I was sure I had, but no. I do like books about maps. Harold Nicolson’s “Journey to Java” is a real find, one of his travel books, obviously, and one I’ve been after for a while. John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s “A.B.C. For Book Collectors” is a 1990s edition of a classic I pored over when I was a special collections library assistant: it covers all the ways book sellers describe second-hand books, the parts of a book etc., but is also very sparkling and witty in the way it does it. I can’t wait to read this again, with its updates.

I’m currently reading Peter Ginna’s “What Editors Do”, which, even without having a chapter by an edibuddy of mine, is absolutely fascinating: just because I’m an editor myself doesn’t mean I know how it all works in a big publishing house or how people do acquiring and developmental editing. A real pleasure to read.

Have you any confessions to make?

Sedate lady running 09-15 July 2018 #amrunning #running


My husband and I both had the week off this week – it didn’t really affect my running’n’yoga routines as I was able to keep to those as usual (we didn’t go anywhere, but had a rest from work and got stuff done around the house, gently and slowly). It was nice to go for an early morning run and not have to worry about getting back and sorted in a rush to start my day’s work (some of my clients are in different time zones so I often have stuff to do early).

One thing I have noted from all the posts I’ve been reading in the link-up every week is that I really need to get back into strength training. I used to love going to the gym and doing some different cardio than running, then getting on the machines and free weights, but seem to have lost that routine. As well as getting back into spin, I’m going to look at doing that twice a week. I think this will help my running and resilience. Yoga is set for Wednesday and Friday mornings, the spin class I can get to most easily is on a Thursday morning, so I think I might need to move my Thursday run to a Friday. That would mean run Tues, Fri and Sat or Sun, yoga Weds and Fri, Spin Thu and strength training when? I work from home and to my own schedule, however being out a whole morning or afternoon would be tricky. ETA Tuesday and Thursday runs are often with running club in the evening, starting just before 7. Any hints on how to sort out my schedule would be gratefully received!

Old running kit!

Tuesday – Did 5.4 miles at 6.30 am – this is the same distance as the running club’s evening run as I wanted to replicate that to make sure I kept up with things. It was really hot and humid and also hayfevery, as I took my medications for that at 6 and they were variously not kicking in yet/ choking me (the nasal spray) and blinding me (the eye drops) as I ran. Fun times! I was going to do the route Jenny and I do with some extra at the start but the extra at the start was longer than I thought and I got to our usual meeting place nearly 3 miles in so altered the second part … then hadn’t quite gone far enough and had to do little spikes up all the side roads to get the miles in.

Wore seriously ancient kit – I’m trying to get the last miles out of my old shoes after having wrecked the newest pair, so wore my Reykjavik marathon 2016 shoes (Saucony Guide 8s) and capris I’ve had since there was this shop in the top of the old shopping centre over the rail station about 14 years ago (they are flappy at the bottom which I love, but also getting quite bobbly).

5.4 miles 11:30 mm

Wednesday – Dave’s yoga class, a really nice one, keeping to the usual routine but I didn’t feel too bad except when we did the triangle on the right side and my right glute needed to free up before I could touch the floor. We went into town in the afternoon and saw Dippy the Dinosaur who is on tour from the Natural History Museum (it’s a plaster cast of a diplodocus but it’s iconic, we both saw it as kids and there it was again!) and BOUGHT TENNIS RACKETS! I’ve been after getting back into my (bad, bad) tennis for ages and finally persuaded Matthew to consider it. My old one has disappeared and was wooden! so we got Slazenger starter ones, in some kind of magical, light material. There’s a British Tennis Association open day thing at various tennis courts including two near us next weekend, and we’re hoping to go along. I also bought some shorts, including some cycling style ones and some two-layer with a cycling short under and a floaty over, the same as my friend Mary Ellen has.

New kit!

Thursday – Ran with my friend Jenny. You know when you get sick and tired of all your routes? Yup. So I suggested we do one of Jenny’s routes, except I miscalculated as our usual run together ends up at my end of the lane that joins our streets, and this one ended up at her end, so I ran a bit further than I’d planned (but it was fine). Her route took us down some VERY POSH roads to the park where we do parkrun and back and I was pleased with the pace give that we very definitely walked up the big hill!

I’m not sure there will be a picture here. If there is, it’s of my shorts! I’ve been very very reticent about wearing shorts for running even though I know it’s cooler and it doesn’t matter. I’m not one for wearing small outfits anyway and I’m conscious that I’m not the most svelte person out there and I also have different height knees because of my leg length disparity (dealt with using raises: all fine). But it’s been so HOT and I’ve embraced them. Husband said I looked “strong” in them and Jenny’s a counsellor and convinced me that wasn’t a euphemism. It was cool – I have run in shorts a bit but weird ones I’ve either cut off or repurposed, and these Karrimor ones were very comfortable and didn’t ride up at all.

The shoes weren’t brilliant, though. One of two identical pairs of Saucony Guide 9s I bought recently, a style I’ve had multiple pairs of and even a colour I’ve had before, yet they felt short and my toes were still sore a while after taking them off.  I wore my very cheap Lidl rucksack which is not going to be suitable for the long race as its neck straps are too close together while the chest and waist ones won’t go small enough (I’m not THAT narrow: who was this made for??). But that’s good to know.

5.7 miles 12:13 mm

Friday – Yoga at Claire’s class, a lot of back bends and arm work which was challenging but OK (being an endurance runner at heart I can force myself to hold positions!) and I actually felt my lower back and glute/ham were looser after that. It was lovely having a lie-in, then reading a bit (OK, then trimming the cat’s claws – slightly random) then popping round to yoga!

Saturday – Volunteered at parkrun and had a great time cheering people on. Then I co-lead a Run and Talk session, which is an initiative set up by England Athletics and the charity Mind via the Mental Health Champions in running clubs. A group of eight of us walked about a mile round the park then had a coffee and long chat about running and this and that. Came home and relaxed.

Sunday – As I’m doing this 18-mile race on 11 August, I’d decided I needed to try for 14 miles and at least a bit in the sun. So I started off later than last week, at 8.40 am. Met Trudie, Caroline and Ruth in the park and that’s when Ruth and I realised we must have been missed off the wardrobe planning email:


Even their watches were the same! Hilarious! Bonus pic of our local park, too. This featured heavily in today’s run.

We headed off down to the canals which feature in the club’s Thursday night summer run, hoping for some shade. I mean, when I got home at 12.20 it was apparently only 73 degrees which is I know a lot cooler than it has been here and is elsewhere, but it still felt BOILING. It was lovely by the canals. We were walk-running, mainly walking over canal bridges as they’re steep and tricky to navigate (they have raised bricks to help you grip but they’re easily tripped over!)

Lots of wildlife to see, including this heron,  and we did well with other runners, dog walkers and cyclists. We then popped up and ran back to the local park. Caroline and then Trudie went their ways with their 7 miles achieved, and Ruth and I soon realised that the park was the coolest place around, with a breeze and shade, so we ran-walked round and round (mainly walking on the uphill bits) until she’d reached her 10 mile target. I was on 11.88 miles by then and reckoned I could do it – I kept looping round the park (spotting my friend Louise out hunting Pokemon in her lovely new sunglasses) until I had 0.5 miles to go, paused for a drink then went home. 14 miles in the bag! I could have done without having Therapy?’s song Screamager in my head for much of the run …

A weird looping route and the pace chart looks odd because I kept forgetting to pause my watch when we stopped to catch our breath or take photos. My first mile was 12:02 and my 14th mile was 12:07 so I was pleased with that.

I wore my Salomon Active 500 belt and took a bottle of Lucozade sport and my 500 ml Salomon bottle, topping up the former with the latter. Wore my Karrimor shorts again and took my old Guide 9s out, which do not pinch, but they’re now up to over 400 miles.

14.0 miles 13:50 mm (including standing still with my watch still running!)

Miles this week: 25.1

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 539 miles (on track)

Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “The Red and the Green” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


Carrying on with the #IMReadalong, we’ve had two of the “minor” novels in a row here, with “The Red and the Green” being I feel one of the less-read novels. It’s Murdoch’s only specifically historical novel, treating the events of Ireland’s Easter Rising and taking a close look at Anglo-Irish and Irish identity. I’m not sure myself that it entirely works as either a historical novel or a novel, but there are of course lots of Murdochian themes and complicated relationships to enjoy, and a less successful Murdoch novel is still a good novel in my eyes.

Iris Murdoch – “The Red and the Green”

(27 February 2018)

I’d forgotten that the sea plays such an important scene-setting role in this book, with beautiful descriptions as usual for IM. Almost immediately we’re looking across Dublin Bay with Andrew Chase-White, in a view that’s “intensely familiar and yet disturbingly alien” (p. 10) – a description it seems of how the Anglo-Irish characters feel when in Ireland (and perhaps in England, too). And we soon meet his cousin, Pat Dumay, the very reason he’s joined a cavalry regiment and grown a moustache. It does feel a bit creaky to have a plot that sets cousin against cousin in the struggle for Home Rule, but then again these things do happen and it enables IM to make some useful points: does the personal outrule the political / military in people’s hearts (yes). While there are plenty of confusing siblings, with pairs marrying each other and a few outliers, Andrew is without siblings and longs for that relationship.

With these confusing siblings, Murdoch actually once again describes the confusion of reading her books:

‘We Anglo-Irish families are so complex,’ Hilda used often to exclaim with a kind of pride, as if complexity in families were a rare privilege. (p. 18)

Checking that quotation, I noted Millie’s assertion that “we’re practically incestuous,” used to greater effect right at the end of the book, of course.

We have plenty of civil servants in the book and also plenty of doubling. Both Barnabas and Christopher have given up civil service jobs to write books. Christopher’s an interesting character, seeming to be quiet and sere and all pulled together but then effectively destroying himself through sudden impulsive actions. Is this the contingent winning over the pattern? Pat and Andrew both fear sex and loathe women, with Andrew being very naive about their motivations. Of course they then, and Christopher, are after the same woman. Andrew and Barney are both virgins and it’s clear they both fail in this respect (I think it’s clear with Andrew).

Pleasingly, we find both people staring into houses through windows – Frances and later Frances and Christopher, and we even find Frances flitting across the lawn in her “whitish” dressing-gown, carrying on the tradition of pale-clad women fleeing through the dew.

It’s quite clear to me that we have two enchanters in Millie and Pat Dumay, and one saint in Kathleen. Kathleen is actually described as the good woman to Millie’s bad woman at one point (p. 108). Kathleen is indifferent to her surroundings and lives in mess and chaos, wearing shabby clothes (in contrast to Millie’s showy dressing-up). It’s explained that her lack of attention to the house is down to her being too busy helping people in distress. Christopher describes her as an independent character and no slave, and respects her for this. Barney goes further, describing her (like Ann in “An Unofficial Rose”) as having “a negative quality in her, an un-life, in the presence of which ordinary healthy persons, such as myself and my step-sons, quite perceptibly shuddered” (p. 213). It’s good to see that she and Frances prevail uninjured to the end of the epilogue, Kathleen still taking in waifs and strays.

As for Millie, Christopher is unable to prevent himself falling in love with her and has been “helpless”. Barney, similarly, “A few kind words, a touch, from Millie re-established and confirmed his servitude” (p. 110). She collects admirers and is “simply incapable of refusing a devotion however absurd” (p. 84), thus being another enchanter whose role is created by their subjects. However, she does also go out of her way to lure Barney when he’s training for the priesthood – “She simply wanted this black-robed priestling as her slave, a pet to fondle and caress” (p. 105). I’m not sure Pat manipulates people in the same way: everyone appears to be in love with him, but he doesn’t do anything to encourage that. Cathal complains of being “enslaved” (p. 125) but continues their bathing ritual past when he could have stopped, and Andrews’ idolising of him means that “the spring of power was broken inside him” (p. 308). So maybe he’s the true enchanter.

As well as goodness we are introduced to ideas of freedom – in Pat’s case “a real loss of tissue in the Self” but associated with pain and masochism and mixed up with his idea of his role as Ireland’s liberator.

Back to that water, we have the sea (notably, Barney visits it with Frances and fails to give his rifle up to it), and also the incessant rain – Millie is practically constantly slightly damp around the skirts (and dampens Pat’s trousers with her “tears or kisses” (p. 180). Water even falls through the conservatory roof onto the tablecloths and there’s always something dripping. When Millie drops her earring inside Andrew’s shirt, it immediately begins to pour with rain. She and Frances also have complex buns, as characters have to have in IM, although I’m not sure anyone’s hair is cut (Millie’s comes down at a pivotal moment). Kathleen and Barney and also Millie have chaotic and busy rooms and there are two mentions of masks (Pat when observed by Cathal). There are complicated arrangements for war but a very Murdochian sudden slew of detail on exactly how to gag someone effectively but safely.

There are discussions of women’s issues which I don’t recall being to the forefront in the other novels (though we do have the efficient secretaries who take things over in “The Flight from the Enchanter”). Millie demonstrates a masculinity which makes her an attractive boy to some characters, but it’s Frances who pushes against the boundaries and raises questions (and who escapes the clutches of Ireland).

Although it’s very much a novel of deep ironies (most strongly the fact that however much one wants to act in a certain way, one’s deep human relationships will always prevail – see Pat and Cathal; Andrew and Pat), there’s not a huge lot of humour. I did like a point about Millie which almost (and I know I don’t usually espouse linking books to their authors’ private lives) seemed to echo Murdoch’s:

A popular woman who enjoys her admirers and is also kind-hearted will naturally want to keep her friendships strictly sealed off from each other. (p. 78)

The inability to do just this gives her the funniest line in the novel, much later:

Well, a woman caught in my situation has got to adopt some tone, and it’s not easy to combine devastating frankness with calm dignity. What tone do you suggest? (p. 251)

The Epilogue is necessary, I think, and of course gives some more doubling and patterning with the coming of the Second World War and Frances’ worry about her son’s friend going to the Spanish Civil War. There’s some slightly heavy-handed discussion of what history will remember, the historical novel side of things intruding once more.

The introduction in my copy mainly covers the psychological aspects of the novel, apparently informed by its 1960s time of writing, which influenced some other works about the Easter Rising. So the historical aspect is prime there, whereas I tend to see the novel as an IM novel with history inserted into it. Not a bad read by any means, not a work of historical document, and I’m glad we move back to the dank mists of religious England for the next work.

Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Book review – Gillian Tindall – “The Tunnel Through Time” #20BooksOfSummer #amreading


Gillian Tindall The Tunnel Through TimeMatthew and I have been having a week off work this week: we didn’t go anywhere, but had a good rest and got a load of useful stuff done in the bits between resting and (of course) reading: a lightshade in the bathroom! Three computer carcases gone to the recycling centre! Slightly complicated holiday booked for later in the year! I’m caught up with the blogs I read! I took the attached picture to prove I did sit out in the garden reading – we’ve had a bit of rain just now and the boiling hot weather did calm down a bit, which was a relief.

I bought this book in the Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance last October (yes, I’m much less than a year behind right now – hooray!) – it’s a lovely independent bookshop and I always try to buy something there when I’m down.

Gillian Tindall – “The Tunnel Through Time”

(02 October 2017 – Edge of the World Bookshop, Penzance)

I picked this up on the strength of having enjoyed the author’s “Celestine: Voices from a French Village” (read and reviewed 8 years ago when my reviews were much shorter) and liking a train book and a London book, so the combination seemed perfect. Subtitled “A New Route for an Old London Journey”, it promised to be a book about the new Crossrail route (not the same as the London Overground, which I had for some reason not entirely grasped) but in fact dots around particular areas and shorter journeys from history that Crossrail now covers, but leaving out some because there is either not enough history there (the Paddington area and Docklands) or there’s been too MUCH history and writing about it (the Brick Lane area). This makes it feel a bit piecemeal and also confusing, as it folds back on itself a few times, comes back to an area chapters afterwards and/or jumps backwards and forwards in time. Then we come to this bit at the end of Chapter V, about Liverpool Street, which seemed overly mysterious and also not in keeping with the endless change and cycles of London:

A further generation has passed, and now at last Crossrail has arrived and the forgotten dead have, in a fragmented sense, lived again. It has been their last appearance. (p. 93)

There was a lot of interest in the book – it explained well that it’s the digging for the new ticket halls that has exposed the most archaeology, covered the history of the Tube and train lines of London (although obviously lots of other books do that, too) and explained just what’s been going on at the Oxford Street end of Tottenham Court Road – there’s a great map of that area and of Covent Garden in the 1880s which was fascinating. It’s also very good on bringing out the whole history of a place in a paragraph, for example Paul Pindar’s house, which passed from private dwelling to pub, ending up memorialised only in the name of a pedestrian walkway through a car park near the Broadgate development (this is what makes the above quotation seem odd, as she’s all about the endless cycles of development and change).

However, I would say that, map of London in the front and contrasting early and late maps of individual areas notwithstanding, you do kind of need to be able to either hold a map of London and an idea of the layout of the Tube lines and overground in your head or be comfortable constantly referring to them.

There’s a lot about history “porn” and misunderstandings espoused by successive generations of Londoners and writers, whether that’s the casting back to the good old days or misrememberings of houses and history, the influence of World War I on writer’s images of peacetime London or many other views of the city and its history. The author is also scathing about modern planning disasters as well as older destructions. So there’s a lot to say in this book, but it’s said maybe at the expense of clarity.

This was Book #7 in my 20BooksofSummer project.

I’m currently a third of the way through “The Red and the Green”, this month’s Iris Murdoch. It’s an odd one, both better and worse than I remembered. Review should come soon, I hope. Then it’s on to Henry II before I get back to 20Books with “Born to Run”. At least I’m keeping up with my reviews and with reading other people’s blogs. How are your book challenges going?

Book review – Miranda Aldhouse-Green – “Sacred Britannia” @ShinyNewBooks @thamesandhudson


Sacred BritanniaI did some archaeology when I was younger and always enjoyed working on the everyday rather than the fancy. I’ve maintained an interest in Roman history and archaeology but have lost touch with new discoveries and theories, so it was especially good to read in this book of finds made up to the mid-2010s as well as the more familiar objects and sites – it added to the fascination of this book I read in June, just now featured on Shiny New Books.

What the book basically does is take the gods and religious practices of the Romans and the gods and practices of the Britons and looks at their interaction in the context of the Roman occupation of Britain, starting from Caesar’s expeditions to the country in 55/54 BC and finishing at what is traditionally seen as the end of Roman Britain in the early 5th century AD. The chapters are themed, looking first at the role of the Druids in the whole thing, then the role of the Roman Army, which was the most definitive example of the spreading of Romans through Britain but also probably the most diverse group of “Romans” hailing from all parts of the empire, in both spreading news of their gods and taking up use of the Britons’. Related to this, there’s a whole chapter on Eastern cults which got absorbed into Roman culture then imported into Britain: the cult of Mithras and others. There’s a fascinating chapter on ancient British symbols such as horns and triple figures being absorbed into Roman iconography, and the use and re-use of different symbols and indeed individual statues and images is continued in the chapter on Christianity … [read the rest at Shiny New Books]

Thank you to Thames & Hudson for providing a book in return for an honest review on Shiny New Books.

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