|28 August 2013 ~ Eleanor
I gave up after reading a quarter of this giant of a book. And I would not have made it that far but for my admiration for Catton’s first novel, The Rehearsal and the mostly gushing reviews for the The Luminaries.
What stopped me was not finding substance, the problem I have with many books that over-rely on mystery. The novel conveys that truth is elusive and perspectives on it change from person to person. There is some insight into the way a gold rush community worked in Victorian times and a smattering of New Zealand history. But Rose Tremain covered similar territory in The Colour with language that was just as good, superior characterisation and without the astrological whimsy.
I don’t insist that novels have something to say about the modern human condition. Books such as Wolf Hall have gripped because they bring history to life. The Luminaries felt contrived from the start. What Victorian gentleman could be induced to admit to twelve strangers, amongst whom he is about live, that his father is a bigamist?
I don’t know if Moody was telling the truth; perhaps the rest of book reveals he didn’t. But whether his tale stands or not, it would be the oddest thing to admit even to the rough and tumble characters of a frontier town.
23 August 2013 ~ Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries
I thought Eleanor's first novel, The Reharsal, was stunning and all the more so for a work written by someone in her early twenties. If I had one regret it was that the novel had little to identify it as the work of an autor who had lived most of her life in New Zealand.
So I was pleased to hear that her second novel, The Luminaries, was set in New Zealand, albeit the 1860s. I picked up a copy this week and needed both hands. It's a monstrous 830 pages, but I won't mind if it is as good as The Rehearsal.
Like her first novel, The Luminaries, is published in the UK by Granta and has a distinctive and attractive cover.
18 August 2013 ~ Earthquakes and Machismo
Some of my family were living in Christchurch when that city experienced major earthquakes; 7.1 in September 2010, 6.3 in February 2011 and 6.3 in June 2011. In fact, my brother, Brendon, was MP for Central Christchurch at the time. What had been a busy job became an extremely demanding one. Part of the reason he lost the next election was the impact of the quake and over thirty aftershocks that registered between 5.1 and 6.2 on the Richter scale. The continuing seismic activity on top of widespread damage to properties led many to leave the centre if not the city. Such was the disruption that the New Zealand census was deferred for two years.
Then another sizable jolt and still he prattled on as if nothing had happened. I felt so uneasy that I did what I could to hasten the end of the meeting without appearing rude. I said I would see myself out left via the first exit I found, which was at the back of the building. And at the rear a gang was at work replacing the original wooden piles with concrete posts. The jolts had been due to parts of the building being either jacked up or lowered.
14 August 2013 ~ Computer Games, Web Trawling & Writing
Thirty years ago, I worked with Lionel, who spoke of his addiction to Space Invaders, one of the first computer games and the first I can recall seeing in public places.
Lionel described how a girlfriend gave him an ultimatum in a pub when he was about to play; “You have to choose between me and Space Invaders”.
He claimed to have responded by asking if she had any change she could give him before she left.
2 August 2013 ~ Alleged Defamation & Coincidence
I have received two threatening letters from solicitors in the last decade. The first concerned the website I have run since 2004 about the failings of Leisure Connection, a company that once had the lion's share of municipal contracts to manage sports and leisure centres. The firm didn’t like what I wrote at Leisure Connection Watch and I received a letter from their solicitor. You can see what they alleged and my response to it on LCW. I never heard from the solicitors again.
Do I feel smug to have seen off Leisure Connection's legal Rottweiler? No. A girl drowned in a Leisure Connection-run pool in Maldon in 2008. I wonder if this tragedy might have been avoided had my campaign been more effective. Leisure Connection was recently fined almost £200k when you add in the costs they were ordered to pay in the case brought by the HSE following the drowning. The firm had been reducing lifeguards below the minimum required. Further details of the court case.
I plan to greatly cut down time spent on Leisure Connection Watch from November. That is when the contract for my local leisure centre gets handed over from to a new and not-for-profit company. But just as I was hoping to reduce my consumer activism, another issue has led me to create a second campaigning website.
This time the company that has riled me is a travel agent called Carlton Leisure. And Carlton Leisure also dislike criticism being made public and got their legal firm, Olephants, to trumpet at me. You can see the recent solicitor’s letter and my reply to it via Carlton Leisure Watch. And by examining the small amount of content already on my new site you can see why the travel agent deserves some critique.
One of the themes of The Bush Baptist is coincidence and the significance that some people attach to flukes. I don’t myself. My view is that so many things happen there are bound to be strange twists of fate from time to time. I find them, or at least people getting the willies over coincidences, amusing apart from the poor souls who live in dread of their significance.
A small coincidence arose from Carlton Leisure Watch. One of the employees I have reported on claims that the company has an office in Pinner. I couldn’t resist adding a postscript to that page, which I reproduce here.
As for Catherine's claim that Carlton Leisure is located in Pinner, I beg to differ.
Carlton Leisure's office is near Rayners Lane Station and Rayners Lane is as much a district of Harrow as Pinner.
Put the company's post code into Harrow Council's website and it tells you the address is in Rayners Lane Ward.
Some maps do blur the distinction. However, Ladbrokes plc, which has it headquarters not far from Carlton Leisure's office, gives its address as Rayners Lane.
The reason some refer to Pinner rather than Rayners Lane largely comes down to prestige. I have written about the snobbery of London place names in two novels.