Sedate lady running 25-31 March 2019 #amrunning #running


Not a huge number of miles this week but you’ll see why at the end, but a decent week of exercise and good physio news.

Monday – A recovery run in the sun with Jenny. Why did I not realise how useful recovery runs are before this marathon campaign???

3 miles, 12:43 mins per mile

Wednesday – Second Dave yoga and a lovely stretch out. Two yoga sessions achieved this week, which felt good!

Thursday – Physio in the morning and I got signed off as a person with a stiff lower back rather than a person with a problematic stiff lower back. I’m to let him know if it gets worse again, and otherwise continue with the loosening and strengthening regime. Thanks, Phil!

Then I went for an early evening run with Trudie. No hat, no gloves, only one layer!

Yes, it was T-shirt weather!

We did a similar route to Monday and the park was looking lovely. Time for a shadow selfie!

Swanshurst Park shadow selfie. Taken by Trudie and used with her permission.

4 miles, 12:07 mins per mile

Friday – Second Claire yoga and while it wasn’t as confusing as last week, there were some hard things. However, lunges on tiptoes, yup, fine, more of those, please! I’d just finished mopping the floors from House Cleaning Day when I got to yoga, anyone else go to yoga with wet hair? (fail).

Saturday – I think I was covering for someone else but anyway, I led our club’s Beginners’ session in the park. I ran there, met four lovely beginners (including a lady in her very late 70s: massive kudos to her!) and one lady who had a Knee so Afshin (leading the four miles) and I persuaded her to run conservatively in the park, and we variously walked ran and looped back, stretched and finished. I met up with Jenny for a couple more loops then ran back to the high street to meet Matthew in the freezer shop to buy some groceries (the glamour).

More sun! Top’s getting a bit battered and grubby but will see me through the ultra then be replaced.

0.6 miles, 11:32 mins per mile / 1.8 miles, 14:06 mins per mile / 1.8 miles, 12:32 mins per mile for 4.2 in total.

You’ll remember Claire, who I do long runs with often: we went to a lovely fundraising lunch at her house (a few houses down from ours) which helped raise some money for her marathon charity and was a lovely occasion. More of Claire next week!

Sunday – I’ve not been hugely happy with my Saucony Hurricane 4s which I bought to replace my beloved Saucony Guide 8s and 9s when the 10s went all small in the toe box. They don’t feel supportive enough on really long runs, and I noticed some ankle aches after my 18 last week. So I went to Up & Running today and tried the Guide 11s (a bit wider but still slightly odd), two lots of Brooks (I could feel they had 1mm less drop than the Sauconys like some weird opposite to the Princess and the Pea), and Saucony Omnis – just right.


Yeah, they’re almost teal and I’m going to get some stick from my Bournville Harriers friends about that; at least the bag’s in our club’s colours!

Miles this week: 11.2 Miles this year: 266 (target miles at end of March 250)

So no long run this week: that’s because I’m doing my long run with Claire tomorrow. I’ve worked today to make up for it so should be able to take most of the day off to recover. Wish us luck with my 19 or 20 and her 22ish!

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

“A Word Child” round-up and “Henry and Cato” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


It’s the end of the month so time to round up where our general thoughts went on “A Word Child” and look forward to April’s read, “Henry and Cato”.

We had a good discussion about “A Word Child” on my review, with some of us, including me, shocked that I’d found Hilary a positive character: not this time! Jo did another great review on Goodreads and as usual I will add any other blog reviews you tell me about to this page. Do pop your comments on the review post even if you’re coming to this a bit late – I’d love this project to live on and be something people decide to undertake in the future!

I have some cover images to share and also a lovely in situ reading pic which I thought might inspire a few more, after I shared images of myself reading the book on a lava field (see my review for that). First I should share, as promised, my circular diagram of the relationships in the book I did last time I read it: I was quite proud of this (it does have some spoilers, though!)

Here are Peter Rivenberg’s US first edition, which I quite like, although I prefer my Tube-inspired UK one (sorry)

and the Penguin which has a slightly odd front cover …

and a back that tells the whole plot!

Also, Thomasina zany??

Finally, here’s Peter’s dog Lexie helping him read it: how lovely!

Henry and Cato

So, on to Henry and Cato. I have three copies, the 1st edition, a Triad Granada published in 1977, my reprint being the 1986 one (so bought and read when I was 14 or a bit older) and then the older-style Vintage one because this is another that doesn’t have the red cover. I have to say I do dislike the Triad cover!

The first edition I bought in Oxfam (they hadn’t realised it was a first, I got it for £2.49 and I went back and gave them an extra donation when I’d checked it). It also has a mysterious sticker on the title page: a diplomatic gift, I think.

No notion of who “Britain” presented it to, however.

Blurb time, here’s the first, with quite a lot of detail:

The Triad Granada with a great quote from the Telegraph which does sum IM up I think,

And the Vintage, recycling the first one:

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “Henry and Cato” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite? (and why has no one answered that question yet?). Do you have a photo to share of you reading one of the books, or where you read it?

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

Book review – Ayisha Malik – “This Green and Pleasant Land” #GreenAndPleasantBook #NetGalley


This lovely novel was written by Nadiya Hussain’s ghostwriter, who has also written two previous books under her own name. The blurb talking of a man labouring under a deathbed request to build a mosque in an English village, and indeed the cover image, appealed when I was sent details via NetGalley and I immediately requested it. I was not disappointed, and this book will interest anyone who enjoys reading culture clash (or mix!) books and those exploring faith and duty.

Ayisha Malik – “This Green and Pleasant Land”

(12 March 2019; published 13 June 2019)

Bilal and Mariam moved from Birmingham to a quintessentially English village eight years ago and he’s on the parish council while she freelances and writes articles for the local paper. Then “Bill”‘s mum dies, and her dying wish is for him to reconnect to Islam and particularly to build a mosque in the village (she doesn’t ask him to dig a grave in his back garden and give lying in it a whirl, as she did a while back, but he picks up that idea and runs with it). He pushes back against the idea for a bit then has a bit of a religious epiphany, has a chat with the lovely local vicar, and starts to look into what to do.

Soon the village is divided, although along strangely fractured lines in places: will the support of the liberal vicar and their neighbour Margaret (in whom, with her over-enthusiasm for learning about other cultures and beam when she manages to greet a Muslim in Arabic, I rather uncomfortably saw myself), be enough to see them through? Will Aunty Khala, with her English learning and salwar kameez stuffed into wellies and Bilal’s best mate Vaseem, with his call-to-prayer app, startle the sleepy village into tolerance or help build more barricades?

There’s a lot in here about language and identity – Bilal is “just not myself in Punjabi” but sees Selly Oak through a lens of Muslim life (as I know Selly Oak really well, this was a fascinating passage for me, seeing it through someone’s very different eyes) and Khala and her natural enemy reach a truce in mutual incomprehension.

I loved the layers of characters in the village, the visiting Aunties, the touching relationship between Haaris and his great-aunt and Mariam’s pull between self-help videos and her over-religious ex-husband and Bilal’s gentle character. I especially loved the sneaky Goodness Gracious Me reference, which had me hooting out loud with laughter! A great read with a lot of depth but still entertaining and even silly at times (in a good way).

Thank you to publisher Bonnier Zaffre for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Lovely incomings #bookconfessions #reviewcopies


I’ve been lucky enough to receive these lovely books from the publishers to review – thank you to all. The three larger ones are to review for Shiny New Books: I feel privileged to review non-fiction for them. The smallest one came from the publisher for me to review, and to offer as a competition prize (once I’ve reviewed it, you’ll get details of the comp).  So, clockwise from top left …

Caroline Criado Perez – “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in A World Designed for Men” – lots of people have been talking about this although I’ve not seen many reviews on people’s blogs. I’ve read quite a lot about this one and am itching to get into it.

Lara Prior-Palmer – “Rough Magic” – Yes, she’s Lucinda’s niece (this will make sense to horsey folk) and this is her story of riding the Mongol Derby in the hoofsteps of Genghis Khan, aged 19. It sounds so exciting but will be the last to be read as it’s out in June.

Elizabeth Emens – “The Art of Life Admin: How to Do Less, Do it Better, and Live More” – well, a book about life admin I need to find time to review (ha ha), and so far I’m at the descriptions of what life admin is, about to plunge into its gendered nature.

Anja Snellman – “Continents: A Love Story” – a Nordic bestseller that’s not a grim crime novel, tracing Oona and Alex’s love story across the continents. Look out for my review and giveaway!

I’ve also won these from NetGalley recently:

Paul Jarvis – “Company of One” – talks about the benefits of staying small rather than scaling up as a business – exactly what I’ve done, having had to make some conscious decisions after my work grew to fill my time, so it’ll be interesting to read about this now being a Thing.

Ayisha Malik – “This Green and Pleasant Land” – Bilal and his wife Mariam live a not-particularly-Muslim life in a sleepy English village, but what happens when “Bill’s” mum’s dying wish is for him to build a mosque there? When aunty comes to visit from Birmingham, chains of events are triggered. I’ve read this novel and will be reviewing it tomorrow and it’s charming and funny and has a lot to say about division and unity in England.

Mark Boyle – “The Way Home” – Apparently this chap has already written a book called “The Moneyless Man” and here he does without technology. Gulp.

Have you read any of these? Do any of them take your fancy? What’s new on your shelves – real or virtual?

Book review – Janet McNeill – “The Maiden Dinosaur” #readingirelandmonth


reading ireland 2019This book was read for Reading Ireland Month (read about it at 746 Books here) and in fact came from Cathy at 746 books last year: she reviewed it here and then had a competition to win a copy, which I won! So it seemed only appropriate to read and review this book for this year’s month of Irish literature. I started it before I went on holiday and finished it on my return, even though it’s a slim volume, but I picked up the threads just fine.

Janet McNeill – “The Maiden Dinosaur”

(25 May 2018, from Cathy at 746 Books)

50-year-old Sarah Vincent lives in a flat in her old family home, with two old school friends occupying other flats and the daughter of another, a young mum with a flighty husband, in the stable block. One of her contemporaries is a resigned wife, the other the brilliant, fragile and beloved monster, Helen, whose every whim must be attended to. Yes, she has had her tragedies in life, but she’s from a guess not an ask culture and poor Sarah spends a lot of energy guessing what she wants from her, while watching her go through other people’s husbands. Oh, also living in the house are the ghosts of Sarah’s parents, but not of her governess, who still holds on and has to be visited in her nursing home. School pupils of Sarah’s come to special teas or lessons and thoughtlessly trample her smallish life.

Sarah is a Good Woman, a devoted, dowdy teacher, visitor of the afflicted, listening ear to her cousin, and never thought of as having her own life or emotions. She’s beautifully drawn and you do root for the worm to turn. Her life and those of her old friends are skillfully interwoven and described, with the layers you see of the schoolgirl in your old friend, the tiny triumphs and rivalries of ageing, the terrible indignities of trying to buy a decent dress, and the karmic kindnesses returning to you.

There’s something of an experimental form in this quiet but not predictable novel, with shifting locations, all presided over by the Irish landscape and narratives from the point of view of other characters every now and again. One character hears a phone ring three times but it’s ringing in three different places for three different people, something that unfolds until you remember that sentence about Addie hearing the rings as she settles into bed – beautifully done. And is that a glimmer of hope at the end?


Sedate lady running 11-24 March 2019 #amrunning #running


I’ve got a bumper post for you today as I was on holiday in Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) last weekend and did some runs there, and I don’t tend to advertise that I’m away on the blog. So here’s a quick rundown of the last two lovely weeks of running.

Week 1 – 11-17 March

Monday – I did a recovery run with Claire (she’d done a half marathon the day before), after my long run of 16.1 messy miles the day before. Nice to unwind a bit and I feel these are really helping. I also had an appointment with my physio and he was pleased with my progress, with everything seeming both stronger and looser. Hooray! I have more of the same to do.

3.1 miles, 12:01 mins per mile

Wednesday – I was really pushed for time and had to choose between running and yoga. I chose running but did extra stretching and yoga moves afterwards. I did a section with Ruth then made up a decent distance so I could cut down my long run on Sunday as much as possible. I don’t seem to have taken any local photos this week!

6 miles, 12:33 mins per mile

Saturday – Walked 9 miles up towards a salt museum and back in Fuerteventura with my husband Matthew.

Sunday – I got up ready for dawn (having had breakfast VERY early) and went out for a lovely long run. I took the road we walked yesterday, but a bit longer, then went and explored the nice promenade around the sea front (note to anyone planning to visit Caleta de Fuste: the promenade is mainly hard concrete paving stones and the road to Las Salinas has a brick and paving stone section before the nice springy walking path so maybe best not to wear your oldest, most knackered shoes).

Long run in Caleta de Fuste (last mile uphill)

You can see where the comfortable path was and where the concrete didn’t give me anything back.

Sunrise over the port of Caleta de Fuste

Dawn palms!

We like a signpost. Plus running in SHORTS and a tshirt!!!

That signpost

11 miles, 12:20 mins per mile

Miles this week: 20.1

Week 2 – 18-24 March

Wednesday – We flew home Wednesday afternoon and I was able to get a run in in the early morning, this time before breakfast. I dried off my clothes on the airer! I concentrated on just the port area this time, running down and around the coastline as far as I could go one way then as far as I needed the other (a bit further than we’d walked on the Monday).

Sunrise over the ocean

Happy coolish runner

It was pretty windy so I was glad yet again of my hat-under-buff combo.

5.2 miles, 11:35 mins per mile

Friday – Managed to fit in a run and yoga – just went out myself before breakfast and zipped around as fast as I could. Yoga was hard with lots of hip opening but good for us!

3.1 miles, 11:07 mins per mile (super speedy for me)

Saturday – Having got up super early to finish a job for a client (I did get the rest of Sat and all of Sun “off”) I was picked up by running club captain Barbara and her husband, along with Mike, the cross-country captain, to go to the Midlands 12 and 6 stage road relays in Sutton Park (also featuring the Midlands under 13, 15 and 17s 5k championships). Barbara and I were officiating and met a lot of familiar faces – this time last year, however, it was SNOWING!

Barbara and I were helping with the start for the 5ks, making sure everyone was lined up then jumping aside to let the gun go off. Then I and another official held up the finish tape for the under-13 winner (my first time doing that and letting go at the right time to allow for a good photo!). Then we were on to the men’s then women’s relays (Barbara helped start the men and I helped with the women). We rotated through pen management and changeover management in pairs, with three teams so one always resting.

Pen management and changeover

Here, Barbara in orange is listening for the announcement of the number coming in (each relay team has a number with consecutive letters for each leg, so A1, followed by B1, C1, etc.) and then calling into the waiting runners in the pen to bring the next runner forward. Two officials stand on the start line looking for the incoming runner to run over the finish line (under the arch). They then release their waiting runner, who stands looking forward, trusting the official (usually!). It’s hard, concentrated work and we had a couple start at the wrong time and have to be called back, but it went smoothly. When 6 men’s teams had completed, we did a Mass Start (decided by the referee) where all runners who hadn’t yet run started off together. They still got times, but all ran together, so you might get the 10th, 11th and 12th legs of a team all running together if they’d only got up to number 9 (well, letter M) being out on the course already). We then helped our lead, Terry, record those all coming in, having got their front numbers off them and made a list so we knew who was still out there.

(Some of our) Kings Heath Running Club Endurance Officials

Sunday – I mixed up my running partners a bit and ran with Sarah, who I’ve known through running club for ages; she’s doing the London Marathon and needed an 18, which is what I was looking for, too. We set out a  bit later than I normally do (lie-in!!!) and she’d organised a canal-based route that we went round one way, then the other way, then we did some bimbling around the area until we were done. Trudie came with us for the first 7 miles then we trotted round quite happily. It was quite warm and we walked up the hills, but I felt OK and was really pleased (I didn’t even cry which I normally do at 16.5 miles) ESPECIALLY because just a couple of miles in we popped to the toilet in a supermarket and the toilet roll dispenser dropped open and hit me on the head. It hurt a lot but didn’t bleed or swell, but I had to spend a while filling in an accident report (NOT what you want at the start of a long run). Given that and being tired from Thursday/Friday and yesterday, I was really pleased with the run, and very proud of Sarah. She’s running for Diabetes UK and I’ve added her fundraising link below.

Sarah and Liz on the canal (taken by Trudie, posted with her permission)

Photo by the thumbs-up! Trudie, Liz and Sarah, taken by Trudie, posted with her permission

We both wore 401 Challenge/Foundation T-shirts without organising in advance!

Sarah’s fundraising page for Diabetes UK is here.

18 miles, 13:43 mins per mile (still just under 6 hour marathon pace for the win)

Miles this week: 26.3 Miles this year: 254.8 (target miles in March 250)

weekly-run-down-final-300x300There’s a new Weekly Run Down run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “A Word Child” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


Well it was going to happen, wasn’t it … I’ve found so much more to like in some of my less-favoured Murdoch novels and then, having been looking forward to this one, I was a bit, not disappointed as sucb, but surprised that I remembered such a horrible central character so fondly!

I’ve been away on my hols, hence the rather odd selection of reading matter in the last two reviews, so here you have an image of what I’d call “Extreme Iris Murdoch reading” – sat in the middle of a lava field in Fuerteventura (that’s my husband heading off to look for some birds).

If you’re doing the readalong or even selected books along with me Or some time afterwards, do share how you’re getting on and which have been your favourites so far.

Iris Murdoch – “A Word Child”

(31 December 2018)

So I remembered Hilary Burde as a gente, slightly shambliing, slight figure, for no discernible reason at all, rather than a big bruiser who keeps bashing women and frightening them. Why, I’m really not sure, as all the information is given to us in the book. We gradually come to realise Hilary is a man who keeps to a strict routine and regime in order to stave off madness, caused partly by his accidental – or not – killing of his friend Gunnar’s wife, with whom he was having an affair. So he has different days for different friends, keeps everything compartmentalised, hates his office-mates, worships his sister, tolerates her suitor Arthur, and puts up with his fey lodger, Christopher. Then a mysterious woman called Biscuit starts following him around and he finds out through office gossip that Gunnar is back … with a new wife.

It is a savagely funny book in that the repetitions and echoings and patterns come with a sort of black irony. The office scenes are brilliant and just right and of course I love Hilary’s circlings of the Circle Line (what a true tragedy it is that the platform bars have long gone and you can’t even go right round on the Circle Line any more!). The theme is set on page 4: “There was nothing here to love” – Hilary has no love in his life and rebuffs any that tries to form. This circles back at the end: “I had almost systematically destroyed his respect and affection and finally driven him away” (p. 387)

Is there an enchanter? Is it Hilary himself, with whom Gunnar and Lady Kitty are obsessed, who he admits three women want him to arrange for them to have children, two with him, and who inspires love? Only Christopher seems to escape him. And surely Christopher is our saint, accepting violence with meekness and being kind (although Jimbo is also an agent of positivity and attention with his taxis and presents. Are we saying the young are going to save the world?). He’s described as being Christ-like at one point. Mr Osmund also gives Hilary his full attention so is perhaps a Saint figure, as is patient and unworldly Arthur Fisch, who absorbs Hilary’s terrible story (although Hilary tries not to pass on his second love to Crystal, she’s still bothered by an atmosphere between them, so it clearly hasn’t worked). Arthur’s is also a “muddler” with a lot of lame ducks, reminding us of Tallis and just as humble: “I think we should just be kind to each other” (p. 87) and, later, “I think one should try to stick to simplicity and truth” (p. 290). Hilary describes him as the perfect IM saint:

Arthur was a little untalented unambitious man, destined to spend his life in a cupboard, but there was in a quite important sense no harm in him. He was kind, guileless, harmless and he had had the wit to love Crystal, to see Crystal, to see her value. (p. 287)

Tommy owns the crowded room full of knick-knacks that has to exist in every book. Clifford has a more refined version with Indian miniatures and tiny bookcases. Hilary gives Biscuit a black pebble which she later flings back at him. For water, we have the endless rain and dripping umbrellas, and of course the Thames as well as the Serpentine and Boating Lake. There’s no pursuit in the dark or standing in gardens looking through into houses, but Hilary does chase Biscuit down the Bayswater Road. In terms of siblings, we have Hilary and Crystal, but Clifford also had a sister, who died. Hair isn’t such a big theme but Laura has an unsuitably flowing grey mane, Biscuit a long black plait Kitty sophisticated brown layers and Crystal a frizzy fuzz last seen in “Sacred and Profane”.

A new theme coming through seems to be the quest, which Hilary talks of on p. 200: “I now had a task. I was like a Knight with a quest. I needed my chastity now; I needed my aloneness”.  The feeling of feuds and owing, when Hilary says, “I owe Gunnar a child” reminds me of “The Green Knight” and brings the patterning into sharp relief. There’s one of IM’s horrible prefigurings when Hilary is talking to Kitty on the jetty – “I felt now as if I were plunging around in the mud” (p. 243) and one that could be from “A Severed Head”: “Powers which I had offended were gathering to destroy me” (p. 323).

The humour is there, but savage as I said: “Not to have been born is undoubtedly best, but sound sleep is second best” (p. 16) feels like a good example. IM is funny about Christopher’s happenings and has Hilary be hilariously vile about Tommy’s knitting, which she does because he once said he liked it, but makes him want to vomit.

In echoes with other books, there’s yet another set of telephone entrails (“The Black Prince” and “A Fairly Honourable Defeat” have them and I’m sure there are more in “The Book and the Brotherhood”). The parks of London of course echo several other books, as does the leap into the Thames at the end. Hilary’s three women demanding babies, echo Edgar’s three women planning to visit at he end of “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine”.

What will become of Hilary at the end? Without a set of fake epilogues to contain him, this latest first-person narrator seems to drift away from us in this stranger than I remember book.

Is it shocking that Hilary is only 41? Yes, a bit: this is the first time I’ve been older than quite a few of the characters I’ve always known as being older than me, and maybe this has reduced my tolerance. The sense of place, though, is as I remembered, and eminently traceable. I’ve been noticing bits of running in the books and here we have Hilary in the parks, “I ran, and was cleansed of myself. I was a heart pumping, a body moving. I had cleaned a piece of the world of the filth of my consciousness” (p. 26).

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.

reading ireland 2019PS I should have added this – this was also read for Reading Ireland Month as IM identified as being of Irish descent and Cathy always lets me include her (read about it at 746 Books here).

Book review – Lisa Tamati – “Running Hot” #amreading @lisaytamati


I’m very lucky to have the lovely Cari in my book and running life – and the two intersect in a lovely interchange of running books across the Atlantic. This one came with her in person when we finally met, decades after ‘meeting’! I decided it was time to read a running book and had a trip to take so taking a BookCrossing registered book was ideal.

Lisa Tamati – “Running Hot”

(23 Aug 2018 publ 2009 Allen & Unwin)

Nicola McCloy is also credited on the back of the title page and credit is indeed due to her as this autobiography of a New Zealand Maori ultra runner is accessible, fresh and in a great, unique voice. Tamati fell into the sport rather, from doing extreme hiking and biking with her controlling boyfriend from Austria – what a shame such a strong and tough woman spent a lot of years being told she was no good although she did get support later in her relationship career. Also a jewellery maker, she shares how her life works and goes rather than glossing over the details all in a nice New Zealand English narrative.

All the ultra runners I know are pretty tough and she’s amazing: I love how she doesn’t even bother to go into detail on the training she does for the Desert Cup: “a pile of 100-kilometre runs, 2-hour races, marathons and even a triathlon,” is said rather airily (p. 155). I loved her early descriptions of running through Tunisia especially the Chott el Jerid salt flats, where I’ve spent a couple of happy days (having arrived in an air-conditioned coach rather than on a bicycle, I hasten to add). Her enthusiasm for deserts is palpable, and that’s where she runs: good for her!

I also liked reading about how her whole community came together to sponsor her for doing the Badwater Marathon, even inventing a healthy sandwich in her honour!

The story is interspersed with chunks of very useful endurance cycling and running advice. It’s amazing how the sport has come on in terms of fuelling and knowledge since she started racing, and there are some big lessons learned. I liked her comment that learning that with a positive attitude she can do pretty well anything but if she’s negative or distracted, anything is hard has stood her in good stead for future endurance events. Learning points, humility about her mistakes and epic desert runs make this a good and worthwhile read, not as preachy as some running books can sometimes be.

I had a look and it appears Tamati is still running, writing and now coaching and podcasting too – what an inspiration!

Currently reading

I’ve got back into my Iris Murdoch of the month, “A Word Child”, although I’ve changed my opinion on it somewhat since last time!



Book review – Alan Hollinghurst – “The Sparsholt Affair” #amreading


I’m glad to say I’m doing a lot better with my reading this month after the horror of only reading five books in February. Not wanting another music one so soon after “Live at the Brixton Academy”, I went rogue and grabbed some literary fiction to get my teeth into. What a great read! But can someone please tell me where to find the key to this roman a clef as there simply must be some portraits in there (there are definitely some real figures, I mean the characters in the story).But it does have a gap, right?

Alan Hollinghurst – “The Sparsholt Affair”

(22 May 2018)

A wonderful, absorbing novel following the lives of a group of men people – two in particular – who meet at Oxford University during World War Two. Divided into sections with titles based on art the first is a very well done piece, purportedly by Freddie, written for a biography club in post-war London that I’m pretty sure is based on a real-life one. It details the appearance of David Sparsholt, a hearty type with a fiancée, who appears in College and mesmerises all of Freddie’s friends (but not Freddie, of course!). A drawing is made at this point which crops up deliciously time and again in a “Dance to the Music of Time” way (the whole novel reminded me of a compressed Dance”, in fact).

After this section, which is read by some of the characters much later on, we move to spend time with the lovely Johnny, son of David Sparsholt, seen in snapshots, first as a teenager obsessed and annoyed by this French exchange partner on holiday in Cornwall, with here a brilliant description of going sailing with his father, the French boy and an odd friend of his father’s, Cliff:

… a looming sense of all the discipline of sailing, the shouting and blaming cutting through the fun. (p. 102)

We then meet Johnny as an adult, working as an apprentice art restorer and by accident thrown into the household of Evert, friend of Freddie and David; he starts to explore the world of London’s gay clubs and encounters.  Another section sees Johnny partly through the eyes of his own daughter, drifting between his household and that of her two mums, a complicated affair for the older generation of their families to understand and explain, if common currency in the world they inhabit.

Because this is basically a history of gay life in Britain from the war, fumbles in the blackout, through wild 70s parties and on to Grinder, selfies and a redeeming International and accepting landscape which is quite moving to read about. Johnny’s a lovely character, shabby and different, persisting in his own channel even though his father’s scandal follows him. We’re not told the details of the scandal, just as Freddie’s extracurricular work during the war is kept hush-hush – some reviewers seem to have disliked this but I enjoyed the ends not being tidied up. Characters come and go, like in “Dance” again and make patterns. It’s carefully crafted and full of echoes across generations, with everyone seemingly obsessed with David Sparsholt. Gay love is told tenderly, elderly gay love even more so, chronicled carefully. But there’s also David’s elderly track through London and the negotiations of valuing a disintegrating art collection (I loved the Barbara Hepworth sculpture which has been restrung).

As an extra touch to this excellent novel, which I didn’t find Murdochian although I read a review before buying it which said it was, Hollinghurst has I believe said he was inspired by Iris Murdoch and he pops in both Johnny’s mum reading “The Red and the Green” and a character called Jack Ducane lightly mentioned. A bonus in an already great read, and I will certainly seek out his other works.

Currently reading

I decided I hadn’t read a running book recently and have very much been enjoying New Zealand Maori ultra runner Lisa Tamati’s autobiography, “Running Hot”



Book reviews – Ziauddin Yousafzai – “Let Her Fly” and Paul Gallico – “Mrs Harris Goes to New York” plus terrible episodes of wickedness @ShinyNewBooks #amreading


Well I’ve got a lot to tell you about today, having not blogged since the weekend, so here’s some Shiny Linkiness, a sweet book that wasn’t my Iris Murdoch and some purchases!

First of all, as we know, I read Malala Yousafzai’s wonderful autobiography fairly recently, and that was because I’d won a copy of her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s book, “Let Her Fly” from NetGalley (thank you to NetGalley and publisher Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read it). I loved “Let Her Fly” and here’s an excerpt from my review:

Now, we can argue about nature and nurture, can’t we, but what is clear is that the extraordinary Malala would not have got as far as she has without this background and this amazing man pushing her onwards and opening the gates of education for her. They form a great team, and still work together on the Malala Foundation. But he doesn’t idolise her and put her on a pedestal, and he’s very honest on the family dynamic and especially his relationship with his own sons.

(read the whole review here)

Paul Gallico – “Mrs Harris Goes to New York”

(31 January 2018 – The Newlyn Bookshop)

I bought this on a trip to Penzance from the lovely second-hand bookshop on Chapel Street, a dear old Penguin from 1960.

A charming sequel to “Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris” in which Mrs H, South London daily, plus her doomy friend Violet, ends up in New York and also in possession of a small boy she has liberated from next door. While the introduction of some trendy late-50s culture misses the boat a bit, the return of an old friend and the addition of some super new ones is lovely, and the whole, if slight, is warm and a joy. Partly told in letters, which makes for a very sweet read.


So do we remember when I bought some books cheap at The Works because they were Christmas books and it was January? Well of course they were all in series, weren’t they, and not the first in each, and they were about Cornwall and I found second-hand copies cheap and although I left one alone, I now have this.

Oops, not oops.

And then on the Prosopagnosia group (read about proso or face-blindness and me on my business blog here), there was mention of a YA novel with a whole  prosopagnosic hero and so that had to be got, didn’t it?

Yes, it seems it did

So there we go. Currently reading Janet McNeill’s “The Maiden Dinosaur” which is brilliant, then it’s on with the Murdoch, I promise. It’s not as wonderful as I remembered it being, but one’s bound to dip down after all the promotions up the favourites list.

Have you been naughty recently? What do you do if you accidentally buy the middle book in a series? They don’t count, right?

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