Just read, The Invention of Murder, Judith Flanders

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Finally finished The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. A book about murder in Victorian Britain and how the press sensationalised it, theatres made a spectacle of it, waxworks profited from it and some famous and some not so famous novelists used it for inspiration. It also talks about the police and the early Scotland Yard. Was really looking forward to reading it ever since it came out last year and now am mildly disappointed with it. The subject is fascinating and the book really is very well researched but the result strangely jumbled. At least I found it so. Too many times, it felt like I was reading a list of which newspaper said what and on several occasions, victims and murderers would be mentioned, with reference to their story a 100 or so pages on. This made for a confused reading and my mind wandered off frequently.
At the same time, references to characters and situations in 19th century novels were very interesting, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell for example (which I love!), several of Wilkie Collins novels, obviously The Moonstone and The Woman in White (which I didn’t really enjoy as much as Moonstone), Hardy’s Tess (errr, haven’t read it but have it on kindle), obviously Charles Dickens, lots of Dickens (Bleak House, which is one of my favourites featured prominently), Sherlock Holmes novels, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Bram Stoker’s Dracula to name a good few. I remember reading about Dickens and Collins’s fascination with murder cases in Kate Summerscale’s Suspicions of Mr Whicher but Judith Flanders expanded on that adding a lot of background which was fascinating.
I also have the new Kate Summerscale about a Victorian divorce scandal (I think?), which I am hoping to read at some point soon and, I may also get the recently published book on Stead, newspaper owner whose first name I can’t remember. There was a good little episode in the Flanders’ book about his rant about an East End murder and he sounds a fascinating character. But first, must decide what to read next… tough choice as there are piles (virtual and physical) of books waiting!

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Reading, cooking, baking

While not posting much last weekend, I haven’t been idle. Didn’t do any baking as was hiking in Lake District for four days. Took The Hunger Games trilogy on kindle and read it in five or so days, quite an achievement considering we were out walking 9-5pm every day. In rain and wind, had a marvellous time and I was early in bed, early to rise so plenty of reading time. Anyway, liked The Hunger Games a lot – more than I thought I would, quite powerful but simply written, to the point. Was pretty impressed.

When we got back I finally finished The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow.

Have wanted to read this book for years, finally bought it a year ago and haven’t had a chance to read it before. Reading is usually minimal between October-June while I’m studying on top of work, so have lots of books to catch up with over summer. The Lunar Men is about the men from Birmingham’s Lunar Society, loosely a club of scientists, philosophers, inventors, doctors who regularly met to discuss ideas in the second half of the eighteenth century. I’m quite interested in the history of science and did a course last year on this period in history (or rather 1780-1830), which I adored. The book is wonderful and the people that populate it, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestly, Joseph Wright of Derby and others are fascinating. Recommended read for anyone interested in the beginnings of Industrial Revolution and, of course, history of science.

The other week, while doing a bit of work at Taste of London, I spotted a rather generous 30% discount on Bloomsbury books stand so got these:

Very exciting! River Cottage Veg book a friend said she got and liked and I needed some new veggie ideas, the dishes I like the sound of most are always veggie curries and come autumn, think I’ll make every single one. Lots and lots of lovely ideas. Not that I don’t eat meat but I don’t think it’s necessary to eat meat every day.

The third book in the pile is River Cottage Handbook book on Preserves – not that I’ve got any space for jars of jams but am thinking of making chutneys. Have only had a little look through  it and it does look very useful. It was only a tenner anyway. So was the River Cottage Bread book on top. It’s got a very good step by step guide with lots of pictures for kneading, shaping and so on. Very useful and just gives a little more information than Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet which I’ve been using for the past 3-4 months. I’ve also now made most loaves from Dan’s book.

Finally, Leith’s Baking Bible does look to be exactly that, very extensive and detailed. Both Leith’s and River Cottage books go into a lot of detail on sourdough bread, which is the main reason I got them. I also hardly ever buy cookbooks so this was a lovely treat.

Balancing it out

What possessed me? I don’t know.

I came across Michel Foucault in one of my course books, remembered I had The Order of Things which I still haven’t read so I thought I’d give it a go. I am not very far into it for reasons that shall become clear shortly and so far, it has been a lot of things at the same time: poetic with some absolutely beautiful sentences and phrases; inspirational as it makes me think outside familiar and comfort zone; educational, I guess this almost goes without saying; extremely frustrating as it starts off with a very detailed consideration of Las Meninas by Velasquez which the publishers did not see fit to include and just a little pretentious maybe – not sure if that’s the translator or the author. Here is what I mean by ‘pretension’:

– propinquity, exegesis, agglutinate, adumbrate, concatenation, sagittal, volute

or:

– proximity, explanation, glue, shade, link, arrow-like, spiral/ twist

I don’t mind looking up words I don’t know but some of these are quite unnecessary. There are lots more and on one hand, I am happy to look things up if I feel I am learning something or, if a word sounds particularly good – like ‘pernicious’ for example, but on the other, is it a requirement of being an intellectual to use words that a great number of people don’t know the meaning of?

So, I thought I’d balance reading of The Order of Things with this:

This is very bad – I have never read complete Brothers Grimm before!! It is quite good reading in bed and again, not very far into it yet. What can I say about it so far – it is not as light as you’d think and some of these are not really children’s stories, some are a bit ambiguous and the morals are not as clear as you’d expect. So far, I don’t think the stories have started entering my dreams but I hope they will. This book is a lot more intriguing and unexpected than I thought it would be.

So, what possessed me? I thought it would be a nice contrast between hard = Foucault and easy = Brothers Grimm but it is not so clear cut as that. I love it already (with hundreds of pages to go)!

How much fun can you have in a ‘country house’ hotel

Good old Miss Jean Brodie, in her Prime, she used to say: ‘for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like’. So true, I find and applicable to the place I was at yesterday.

So we had porcelain figurines in cabinets

An old knight guarding the entrance

Muses?

Dancing ‘nymphs’

A lovely bit of embroidery framed and positioned on a stand

Think this was called ‘The Shakespeare Room’ for no apparent reason, good convex mirror though despite the gilding.

A ‘Mung’ dynasty vase

Questionable taste in chairs

Binoculars that conveniently look into a wall

And a busy librarian.

I don’t know much about antiques and I understand that parts of this place were restored with English Heritage but to me the whole thing amounted to some very questionable taste and not a small amount of pretension.

See what I mean? I was however rather excited to be able to wander about taking photos and to my utter delight, discovered that, no matter how much you try and sweep things under a carpet, or rather, behind ‘staff only’ entrance, they have a way of surfacing back up:

Apologies for a huge amount of photos, just couldn’t resist!

Just read

Didn’t know anything about the hundred years war before and now I know one or two things about it. Good book, who knew there were lots of people rioting in England in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century. According to some commentators of recent riots, it’s all down to rap music, video games and suchlike (this article in The Economist rounds it all up nicely). Nothing like it ever happened before ever ever. Journalists on some papers should definitely read more books.

How could I forget!!

Have been waiting for Borgias to start ever since Game of Thrones finished. Sooooo looking forward to seeing Jeremy Ham Irons and now it’s started and I had no idea… that’s just not very good but thankfully there is anytime. All will be good!

Day 40 – first a walk

‘Fitness building’ regime for upcoming Lakes trip continues. Took hours last night figuring out the route to walk today. Thought might as well have a look at different part of Lee Valley and that was a good idea. Fabulously varied landscape throughout: there was woodland and meadows, a heron that lazily spread its wings and flew off before I managed to instagram it, a lovely lake with people fishing, a bit of history and ruins, going under the M25, then a marsh, then bits of populated area, followed by a massive reservoir on one side and an equally massive industrial area on the other, a few horses grazing by, then back to populated area.

Today’s Lee Valley route included getting to Cheshunt, then walking down to Waltham Abbey, having a look around, then back to Lee Valley path and walk to Ponders End. Plan was to get a train back from Ponders End only the wait would have been way too long so, walked some more instead and got a bus down via Edmonton and Tottenham. The furniture shop that burned down in the riots has been pretty levelled, only rubble remains and several other burned houses/ shops were being cleared out. Some people were still boarding up their shops but the street was busy and lively. I am not sure that the Aldi supermarket will ever look lively again though. That’s still fully boarded up. It all looked shocking and pretty sad and I felt quite strange, like a tourist, a complete stranger, not really seeing anything familiar but I was in the area only two Sundays ago on route to walk across Tottenham Marshes… Didn’t feel right taking pictures so all in all I only have a few today

This is way too dark unfortunately but nice bit of blue from lomo. Bower Water.

And another view of Bower Water through the trees. The sky was quite cloudy at this point but got very sunny after Enfield Lock

Waltham Abbey, has a pretty cool ceiling. Needed a proper camera though

Ceiling detail. Great pattern.

Finally, a rather blurred detail of a fresco on one of the walls (totally needed a good camera), early 15th century the leaflet said. Waltham was the last monastery to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. Shame, the whole complex looked huge, would have been great to wander about.