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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

From Chiclitz to Chick lit....

 Cosied up with your Kindle?   Knee-deep in 99p novels?     Life was so much better when we  borrowed our  books from Boots. Or was it? My favourite  film of all time 'Brief Encounter' sees the heroine calling in at Boots on a regular basis to change her library book (pronouced libe-brear-ree by the wonderful Celia Johnson.)

And this week I learned some fascinating facts about our  reading habits from a thirty-three-year-old hardback book 'Novel and Novelists - a Guide to the World of Fiction,' which  I discovered in a second hand book shop. It begins with the simple statement - The novel could not have had such a long and persistent history had it not been for public demand...

'The main market,' it adds, 'for the (pre-war)  novel was the commercial circulating library.  The largest were the Boots and WH smith chains with up to 400 branches each in their  heyday - whilst a myriad network of 2d or 'cornershop libraries' supplied fiction to the whole population.'

Edited by Martin-Seymour Smith, this 'guide to the world of fiction' makes reference to 'Old Bloody Chiclitz,' one of  400 characters  in Thomas Pynchon's famous novel 'Gravity's Rainbow,'   which won America's National Book Award in 1974.

The Chiclitz character, first seen in Pynchon's novella 'The Crying of Lot 49,' is thought to be a metaphorical form of the once popular 'Chiclets' chewing gum.  The small pieces of chewing gum looked like teeth and 'bloody chicklitz,' it seems,  became  cockney slang for broken teeth.

I'm not sure who invented the name  Chick lit, though the idea has been attributed to international author Kathy Lette. Interestingly, the increasingly  popular independent publisher Choc Lit, founded in 2008,  almost swept the board in national awards for romantic novelists  last year.

 I read recently that there is a growing interest in 'religious chick lit' which sounds to me  like  a bit of an oxymoron. Come to think of it, Oxymoron would be a wonderful name for a character in a 21st century e-book. All I need now is the plot...

Monday, 18 March 2013

From suffragettes to school runs....


 'School Run - Sorry - be back at 4pm'  The sign on the gift shop door made me stop and stare. Had I  stepped  back in time?  After almost a hundred years of campaigning for women's rights  some of us, it seems, are  still  hedging our bets. So what did happen to equality for women?

I wasn't around when suffragettes were starving themselves in prison or throwing themselves in front of the king's racehorse, but I do remember Women's Lib.  It wasn't  about bra-burning, though that bit has gone down in history. 'Women in a Man's World' ran the headlines in newspapers across the land. We were trying to prove we could do anything the men could do, in the same way, for the same pay.

'You want equality - then earn it,' said my then news editor, sending me to cover Sunday League soccer in the pouring rain.  I listened and I learned.  Women  worked harder to keep up with their  male counterparts;  took the flack,  resisted the sack and got the job done.

Back then job interviewers routinely asked married women if they were planning to start a family. Mothers were quizzed about childcare provision and always kept it a secret when their children were ill, even enlisting the help of a trusty neighbour. They may have been frazzled but they swore they could cope.

Today comes the news that working mums spend 28 hours a week looking after the home and family on top of their full-time jobs. This includes shopping, cooking, making beds and - you've guessed it - driving their children to school.

 'So why did the school sign make you mad?' asked my other half, innocently.
 'The shop owner,' I sighed. 'She's just making excuses.'
 'She?' he said, smiling at my indignation. 'How do you know it's not  a He?'

 He's right, I admit. But then he's a man,  Maybe we've found a different kind of equality after all?


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mum's definitely the word...

Photo: Am I imagining it or does the envelope of my card actually look like it says 'mum'!

My post last week encouraging children to 'believe in make-believe' has a fitting post script today.

When three-year-old Millie got her mum a Mother's Day card, she wanted to scribble on the envelope, too.  Her dad didn't think anything of it till he spotted a special word in the wavy lines.  Yes, it was Mum...

Maybe we have another writer in our midst?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A ghost in the sea?

Sunrise at Bordeaux Harbour

This exquisite sunrise was sent to me by Guernseyman Robin Banneville, a brilliant amateur photographer who captures the island just as I always remember it. The first thing I saw when I opened this photograph was a ghost staring out from the sea. Just my imagination? Maybe.

But  where would we be  without our imagination? When I was a child my parents would  take me to watch Guernsey's famous sunsets,  and afterwards I really believed that the sun had fallen into the sea.

As I grew up, the power of  make-believe  made me want to write, and thankfully nothing has changed. Children are born with an innate sense of make-believe but some are in danger of losing this ability in an increasingly computerised  world.

The lines between fact and fiction are becoming  blurred as two and three-year-olds sit in front of the screen, entertainment taking the place of  early education.

I've just discovered a wonderful children's book 'The Chimneys of Green Knowe' written in 1958 by Lucy M Boston and reprinted in 2010 by Oldknow Books. This simple story, of a young teenager sent to live with his grandmother during World War Two, was transformed for the screen by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes.  'From Time to Time' starring Maggie Smith,  and featuring Hugh Bonneville, Timothy Spall,  Dominic West and Pauline Collins is one of the most moving adult films I have ever seen.

'Don't tell fairy stories,' my mother used to say when I was  sparing with the truth.

I'm glad I didn't listen.


Thanks, Robin...