The Birds in Haiku
Back in 2010 I decided to Haiku The Birds in Tweets.
This is them:
The egg and Horse +Bamboo present Tove Jansson’s
Now, it is fair to say that I am one of The egg theatre’s biggest fans; from their always ‘left of centre’ productions to the amount of creativity and effort they put into Bath’s school children, they never fail to impress. So it was with proper excitement (and no trepidation) that the husband and I took our seats on the balcony for this telling of a wonderfully eccentric tale.
Moomintroll was a firm favourite in my childhood and has definitely enjoyed a new popularity in recent years with a new generation. In fact, it’s more popular than ever if all the merchandise is anything to go by! As I looked over from my seat I couldn’t fail to notice the little girl cuddling her Moominpapa and Moominmama dolls, wearing her Moomintroll dress.“Look, you can see Moomintroll’s ears! There, see, see?”
One of the things The egg has over the main house is its intimacy. Before the play had started, children had already noticed the ears of the three Moomin puppets in their bed, my husband spotted the teapot, floating over-head. When we finally met the stars (expertly operated by the Horse + Bamboo Puppet Company), they were already in our hearts and very much alive. We watched as Moomintroll overcame his anxieties about being alone with the help of a new friend, Too-Ticky and his magical Shrews who are so shy they are invisible. Little My was an audience winner as the voice of mischief and mayhem was brought to us in the form of the Hemulen, skier extraordinaire. The Groke (a creature of ‘wet misery who just looks’) was especially impressive, dwarfed only by the ethereal Lady of the Cold. But it was the little absent minded squirrel with the fantastic tail that really stole the show, at least that’s what the two children next to me said.
For me though, the triumph of this unique Christmas production was the scenery and the incredible animation as the back-drop. Along with the magical music score, this quirky, thoughtful production captured my imagination and beguiled every child in the auditorium. I especially noticed the little girl hug her Moomin dolls tighter as her mum fastened up her Moomin bobble hat. And my husband bought me a Moomin mug.
©Lisa Lee 2014, 2016
NW by Zadie Smith
Although I own On Beauty, I haven’t read it so this was my first Zadie Smith book. I didn’t choose it either but then that’s the joy of our book group; to make you read something a little different.
So when we all met up to talk about NW I was one of a few who hadn’t finished it. The general feeling about the book was a bit average, if you know what I mean. The most succinct comment came from Dominique, ‘It’s very well written, clever but, unlike White Teeth [which she loved], there’s no humour’. I had resolved to finish it though, with the insight of the group to buoy me along.
Okay, I wasn’t sure of the style initially – short sentences, streams of consciouses which seemed to stop me from truly knowing the characters. However, by the end of the first part, in which we learn about Leah and Michel, I did have a clear vision of them and this led brilliantly into the upbeat, yet ultimately sad, second part of the book. Felix and his menagerie of friends, for me, brought the book alive. It’s shocking end making you want to know more and to see how it all ties together.
So we move onto the next part. The book group assured me that Natalie/Keisha’s tale was by far the best but I’d have to disagree. Whilst I enjoyed her story, her struggle to make something of herself and her ultimate break-down, I got fed up with the short paragraphs. It felt like being constantly interrupted by somebody when you’re having an in depth conversation. In contrast, though, I really enjoyed the next part of Natalie’s tale, where she meets Nathan on that fateful day. Interestingly, the book group weren’t so enamoured with that part.
So does it all tie in together at the end? No, not really. You do get a sort of closure I guess, the two friends coming together to do ‘the right thing’, but there was so much more that was promised. For me it felt like there were three different books in this and none were really given the chance to breathe. That may have been the whole point, of course, but it did give a general disjointed feel to the final novel.
Click here for a more in depth review.
The Rector’s Daughter
By F.M. Mayor
Ahh, Mary Jocelyn. Is she weak, downtrodden and insipid? Or is she content, using her wiles intelligently and, well, insipid?
You’ll have to make up your own mind. I loved her simplicity. I travelled with her as she negotiated the cold wasteland that was her father, an intelligent man on some levels but on others, grimly lacking.
Mary’s life ran predictably, as I’m sure so many women’s lives did back in the 1920’s. But hers was an old fashioned existence. I had to keep reminding myself that it was set in the relatively modern ‘20’s as Mary lived in a very Victorian environment. The modern world pervades from time to time but it is the one she knows that she prefers.
The sadness, for me, came from the glimpse of love that she had. If only she’d never glimpsed it, I feel her life would have been content, but to miss her chance – ahh, Mary Jocelyn.
The Possession of Mr Cave
By Matt Haig
First things first, this has an excellent cover, very intelligent looking and that is why I chose it! Yes, I judged this book, as I have so many times, on it’s cover and I was right to.
It starts slowly but explosively, the fallout from Reuben’s tragic death seeping into your bones, Terence, the father, left bereft with the near perfect twin, Bryony. The pace quickens somewhat as the relationship between them spirals out of control as he becomes increasingly possessive of his daughter and then, later, possessed by the spirit of his son.
Haig writes the part of Bryony perfectly, a typical teenage girl rebellious and self obsessed, railing against her father. Terence, too, is keenly observed as the guilt-ridden dad who has to come to terms with his treatment of Reuben whilst he was alive along with the violent death of his wife.
Now, I know this sounds bleak and a parent’s worse nightmare but actually, it’s not. I have two sons and at the time of reading my youngest was the same age as Reuben yet, strangely, it didn’t relate at all. I cannot explain why, maybe it’s because it’s in the first person and so remains exclusively Terence’s story. I’m not sure and I certainly wouldn’t want to speak for everyone else.
For a more in depth review, please read John Burnside for The Guardian
The Girl on the Landing
by Paul Torday
My first encounter with Paul Torday was ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, a delightfully quirky book that has, quite rightly, just been made into a film. So I was already a fan when I picked up ‘The Girl on the Landing’.
Torday has a very simple style of writing which is so full of intelligence, wit and rich characters that it isn’t until you finish that you truly appreciate his depth. ‘The Girl on the Landing’ illustrates this perfectly, taking the potentially dark subject of schizophrenia and applying his lightness of touch.
It feels, as you are reading, very much as if Torday has done little research on schizophrenia, and that may be the case, I haven’t checked. But, having read ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ and knowing that he must have carried out a fair bit of research for that, I’m willing to bet that he knows about the condition inside out. It’s a testament to his simplistic and excellent writing style that he manages to engage you as a storyteller and doesn’t portent to be a doctor.
If you haven’t read any Paul Torday, then please do. Now that there’s a film of ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ out you’ll probably see him everywhere!
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
Glowing yellow and orange amidst darker covered books, my eye had been caught. But I was drawn to The Tiger’s Wife by its promise of ‘folk fable’ as much as it’s beautiful cover, and wasn’t disappointed.
The beginning I found a little heavy and I think this was due to not being able to place the characters. Obreht uses fictional place names and so it was difficult for me to get a sense of place. However, once she’d introduced the first folktale the need for place names became irrelevant. As with all fables, the magic is in the characters and The Tiger’s Wife has a wealth of magical ones.
I adore how Téa Obreht retells the ancient folktales of the Balkans, effortlessly swapping between black humour and poignancy throughout. The Deathless Man is one in particular that brings a smile to my lips, whereas the harsh and some how tragic tale of Luka, the butcher, truly makes my heart ache a little.
As debuts go, The Tiger’s Wife is a marvellous one, leaving you wondering what Obreht’s next book will bring.
For a far more in depth review of The Tiger’s Wife, read Liesl Schillinger at The New York Times
Electric Vintage Tattoos
Where All Your Inky Dreams Can Come True!
I remember the days when tattoo parlours, like betting shops, existed behind darkened doors. That tight, nervous feeling you got as, after your third unsuccessful visit, you finally pushed the door open, the relief when a smiling tattooist shook your hand and showed you their portfolio. I remember thinking, ‘What was I so worried about?’
It is very difficult to keep the wonderment of the tattoo parlour whilst making it a little less intimidating for the client, but Sara Hopson has fantastically achieved this very thing with Electric Vintage Tattoos.
You can see the layout of the studio from outside, so you know exactly what to expect, which, if you are a tattoo virgin, is quite reassuring. Inside you will meet some of the most talented tattooists in the country right now, who will work with you to achieve your desired design. Then, once you’ve paid your deposit and booked a slot, you get your ink! From start to finish, the experience, for me anyway, was excellent. You couldn’t be in safer, more creative, hands.
Sara and her team also offer Laser Removal, Body Piercing and Clothing. For more details and prices, check out the newly designed website: http://www.electricvintagetattoo.com/?q=node/15
©Lisa Lee 2012. Also at http://www.Bath.Co.Uk
And the Ass Saw the Angel
By Nick Cave
I am a die-hard Nick Cave fan and not just because of his heart-wrenching rawness. He is an astonishing lyricist, taking you to places tender, soulful and heart breaking or cruel, twisted and terrifying. With this well honed skill, is it any wonder that he’s an author for the intelligent and, dare I say it, a modern day classic?
‘And the Ass Saw the Angel’ is, from start to finish, relentless, relentlessly grim, sordid, sad, tragic. With its biblical feel and characters so flawed that they could spawn a book in themselves, it isn’t an easy read. I often felt as if I was dodging Cave’s inventive adjectives like bullets coming out of the page, yet I was inexplicably drawn back for more.
That said, I was not sorry to finish it; I was damn near breathless by the end and was relieved to catch my breath back. Fantastic!
by Franz Kafka and Peter Kuper
As a lifelong fan of the graphic novel, I am constantly on the lookout for dark stories and vivid illustrations that often haunt whilst always satisfying.
When I first saw ‘The Metamorphosis’, with it’s glorious cover, I had just heard it read on the radio. So it was put onto my Christmas list and Papa Noel obliged.
You could say there is an element of snobbery in my choice, Franz Kafka being one of the great authors many want on display on their bookshelf. However, I only sought him out after I’d heard the radio play and had fallen in love with Gregor.
But why should you go for the graphic novel and not Kafka’s original?
Well, you shouldn’t necessarily but I did. ‘The Metamorphosis’ is a short book which lends itself expertly to illustration. Here, Peter Kuper keeps Kafka’s original dark humour, allowing you to drink in the sheer spectacle of the hapless Gregor and his hideous family.
Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ has a lasting simplicity. As you witness Gregor’s transformation into, well, you’ll see, you are struck by the true ugliness within the book, that of his family and boss and his beauty of spirit. Short, sweet and delivered in true Kafka style, this is a marvellous way to discover a truly magnificent author. I love him, I love this. It’s been re-read many, many times.
Cosy Club Haiku
‘Lunch for one’ I say
Wind my way through full tables
Snug in the corner
Escapes from beneath the new
Less int’resting one
Soft glow emits from
Opulent tasselled lamp-shades
Giving warmth and light
Artwork fills the walls
Pinned butterflies revolt me
Mirrors reflect age
A frieze of tall trees
Entwine with a maze of pipes
To disguise concrete
A stuffed fox watches
Peering down at my table
While I eat tapas
If you are one of the many locals who lament the demise of our individual, independent and speciality shops in favour of the faceless, impersonal and lack-lustre stores then you just have to visit Colonna and Smalls on Chapel Row.
Since 2009 Max and his wife, Lesley, have been busily educating the people of Bath in the ways and wonders of the coffee bean. Not just a coffee shop, the former art gallery has been creatively used to include a fascinating ‘Brew Bar’ (my favourite bit) in full sight of the seating area. Here you can watch your chosen coffee individually brewed to perfection. The wonderful staff, all trained by Max, are a breathe of fresh air too, happily explaining both the different blends and procedures.
If you want more, then downstairs, there are Tasting Courses. Aimed at parties of between 4 and 8 people, this is the perfect way to learn just how diverse coffee can be and allows the passionate baristas here to impart their knowledge. You may want to go a step further and do their Training Barista Course. Either way, you are in excellent hands, with Max as last years South West Barista of the Year, and his highly trained staff to guide you.
Please visit Colonna and Smalls to contact Max for more details.
Even if you are not an aspiring barista, a little knowledge about what has become one our favourite beverages is no bad thing. From the menu to the smiling barista serving you, you cannot fail to leave Colonna and Smalls with a little more understanding of the humble bean.
This gem of a place, for me, has become the very embodiment of Bath, full of passion, excellent taste and pure indulgence.
Ladies Get Trim on Trim Street!
Let me introduce you to The Studio, on the aptly named Trim Street. Behind the innocuous blue door there is a haven of feminine tranquillity, offering us wonderful women a complete package of leisure and pleasure activities that will ensure our health and happiness for however long we choose to accept it.
Kitted out with all the latest equipment, Debbie Robinson’s ‘women only’ gym strives to keep the fairer sex fit, healthy and happy by offering an assortment of activities on top of the basic gym membership, from beauty treatments to Zumba. My favourite (at the moment) is the Pole Dancing which I assumed I would only get to try by attending a Hen Party but happily found Naomi and her Beginners Course, and 1 to 1 sessions with Eloise, at The Studio. Wonderful.
Coincidentally, Debbie does cater for Hen Parties, offering Pole Dancing and Burlesque, two very feminine disciplines that are often seen as a bit taboo by many of us.
In creating a testosterone free space for us, Debbie has ensured that women feel relaxed whilst exploring their ‘inner exhibitionist’. Whether you’re spinning on a pole, seductively wiggling your hips or running on a treadmill, there is a real sense of sisterhood about the place. Even the changing room has an elegant boudoir feel about it.
So, ladies, if you know that you need to tighten up, sweat a bit or just feel like a new experience, check out The Studio’s website, www.thestudiobath.co.uk for the latest
2 for 1 deals and a full list of what’s on offer at this marvellous facility.
©Lisa Lee 2012, 2016
Sinclair Portrait Photography, Passionate About Pictures.
While we can all snap away on our phones whilst our children are playing in the garden, it takes a certain expertise and knowledge to capture the wonderment and growing knowledge in their eyes, an enormous amount of patience to allow the younger sitter to ‘express themselves’ and a passion to take that moment and preserve it.
Being a professionally trained portrait photographer and a member of the widely acclaimed Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP), Helen Sinclair does just that.
As a busy mother of two young children herself, Helen is only too aware at how fleeting those precious early years are and believes in the importance of taking one moment and creating a treasured memory. It is this belief that gives her portraits such an enormous amount of creativity and imagination, as she manages to extract from each sitting a unique, deeply personal portrait for the family to cherish for years to come.
|Helen captured the ‘arrogance of youth’ in this dynamic portrait of Sworn Promises|
“I’ve always loved having a camera in my hand but only recently had the courage to take the plunge and do it full time. I love photos and could easily spend all day looking at them. I’ve seen some beautiful things in my life so far and the fact that I’ve captured them in photos means I will always have them in my life.”
To book a sitting at either her home in Oldfield Park or any location you desire and view some of Helen’s wonderful work, please visit her website: www.sinclairportraitphotography.com.
©Lisa Lee 2011 Revised 2012, 2016
Stagger Lee, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Whether you’re a fan or not, there is no denying the journey that Stagger Lee takes you on. Illicit violence, language so foul, your toes will curl, leave you feeling exhilarated.
A deceptively simple musical arrangement of guitar and keyboard leads you expertly to Mr Cave’s sinister voice, punching out incisive and profane lyrics. His hypnotic diction recreates this tale of explosive violence too perfectly. It leaves you feeling excited and just a little dirty. A good mix, by anybody’s standard.
As the Seeds expertly build the tension, using repetition but increasing the volume and power, Cave leads you through a tirade of hatred, collapsing you to your knees. We hear the gunshots being pumped into a humiliated Billy Dilly.
The onslaught of screeching guitars echo the chaotic cries of minor characters as they witness the deed. You feel part of them as the cacophony fades, as if you’ve left the bar. Relief then. Unless you have the Murder Ballads album, in which case you’re about to meet O’Malley…
A Magical Start to 2011!
It is with trepidation that I approach the annual school trip to the pantomime. Generally, this is because we are always up in the gods, on impossibly steep seats and forgotten by the performers. Like the undeserved, peeping in through a window. Last year, I managed to be poorly. This year, to my delight, we upgraded to The Egg!
Just so as you know, The Egg is a little theatre, separate from the main house,
that specialises in plays for children. But this isn’t why it holds such a special place in my heart. For a few years now, the wonderful staff there have taken our children, given them a script and moulded them into something extraordinary. To watch my year 6 class grapple with Romeo and Juliet and successfully perform it to their astonished parents was a gift. Then, last year, my year 3’s had the opportunity to perform their nativity there. Again, parents were amazed and enchanted by the professionalism of their cherubs. I watched them bloom over the 3 or 4 weeks of rehearsals into self- confident individuals; all of them surprised me. Maybe it is because of our links with The Egg that we chose to see their performance of Alice Through the Looking Glass. Whatever the reason, I am hugely grateful.
The second day of term then, and the 5th day of the new year. The entire school, governors included, pile into the coaches and wind their way down to town. Then we piled into The Egg. Impeccable behaviour as the children took their seats. What will 160 children make of a relatively unheard of story that is, pretty much, nonsense from beginning to end?
It begins with Alice feeling like nothing. ‘Stupider, stupider’. I glance at some of our more fragile children, knowing that this is the sentiment of many, as is the whole ‘little sister’ set up. So as Alice escapes into her imaginary world, the children are there with her, as am I. The wonderful nonsense of the Mirror World has a kind of logic; flower beds too soft so flowers sleep all the time and that’s why they don’t speak, being the most logical. Then there’s the incredible set design, costumes and songs. Everyone was enthralled. During the interval, someone noticed the Jabberwocky, suspended from the ceiling. It took a good deal of will-power to stop them looking upwards and to focus on the marvellous acting going on in front of them! They were so busy anticipating the descent of the Jabberwocky that when Humpty fell off the wall, with a glorious explosion, they were totally unprepared. Classic moment, though I’d like to have seen how the retired governors coped with it! The Jabberwocky did make its impressive appearance, and the children were all suitably in awe. Splendid.
So, what did 160 children make of an old nonsense story? Exactly what they wanted to, which is, actually, the whole point.
Thank you to all at The Egg. Once again you have made the children of our school feel special and given them another wealth of memories for them to take into their adulthood.
Check out their upcoming shows here: http://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/the-egg/
©Lisa Lee 2011
Moving On, Moving Up!
My job has some fantastic moments. They are sandwiched between some truly awful ones sometimes but when they happen they completely change my day.
Transfer Day or Invasion Day, as it’s often known, happened at my school today. You know things will be strange as the whole of Year 6 are absent, busy finding their way to their chosen secondary schools. As I strolled up the road I thought about the lad I work with. By now he’ll be sitting on the bus with other children heading to St Marks on the other side of Bath. His friends would be walking along to Culverhay, down to Hayesfield or on a bus to Ralph Allen. All of my Year 6 class dispersed to different areas of the city. I thought of each one of them and silently wished them luck.
At school the children were just as excited, trying to guess which teacher would be taking their year group, which T.A. would be supporting them. We were all under strict instructions not to reveal anything. Part of the ritual is to claim ignorance and to let the children believe that we all find out together, not so difficult as this year we only found out where we were to be yesterday. Graced with the presence of the Year 2’s, next years Year 3’s, we all gathered in the hall after lunch. The head teacher, list in hand, announced next years class list.
As we watched the Year 5’s leave to try out their new Year 6 class next year, then the Year 4’s and Year 3’s, I took in their expressions. There were a few “Woops!” and “Yeses!”, no sad faces and quite a lot of friendly hugging. So far, so good. Children moving on to their next year with confidence then. Easy for them as they are already in the school and have only really changed teacher. Time to focus on the nervous Year 2’s. How big our school must look to them. The children they have just seen leaving the hall must seem so grown up. It’s incredible to think that this time next year they will all have moved up a rung in the junior school ladder. Their new teacher and myself led them down to their new class; silence in the line please! They all obeyed. In the classroom you could see them visibly relax as they sat next to friends and started to chat. But this is junior school! Chatting in class is not permitted so they quickly hushed.
After some drawing, colouring and lots of games our next years Year 3’s were allowed to play outside. This was the real moment. The moment you learn which child will upset others. Which child will be upset by others and which ones can talk the hind legs off a donkey! They are a tight little group, relying on each other and holding hands. You can imagine them moving up through the school as a unit. A team. Exactly as my Year 6’s have done. I wonder, how many of them will stay together through secondary school?
Time for them to return to the infants. Only for a few more weeks, though in their heads they are already here. Little ones eager to be slightly bigger ones.
And the story is being replayed in all the schools in Bath…
©Lisa Lee 2010, 2016