On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan)

You gotta love Ian McEwan. Even though all his novels I’ve read are as disappointed, despairing and devastating/-ed as a small girl, whose lolly just got stolen from the clown who promised to find her parents after she lost them because they were fighting because her puppy got run over. (I’m sorry, that analogy sucks. I was just trying to think of the saddest thing ever and that was all I could come up with.) There are some things that really speak for him. Like…

… his prose, which is just wonderful, fitting and insightful.
… his characters are so real, you can actually see them.
… his sadness, which is never cynical.
… his ability to write a book like On Chesil Beach which has a very thin plot but still manages to surprise you and keep you hooked.
… his addictiveness – his books always leave you begging for more, which makes you extra careful to enjoy what you’re reading.

Do I really have to say more?

Superstition (David Ambrose)

David Ambrose is so fucking famous that there’s no English wikipedia entry on him (only German, interestingly enough. And Polish. Not that I understand a word of that). Although he’s not only written some novels, but also some screenplays. Oh well, fame doesn’t come easy, sometimes. (Except if you’re really, really stupid. Then it comes way too easy.) Here’s his official website.

Well, Superstition is one of his novels. It’s about a journalist, Joanna, and a (para-)psychologist, Sam, who conduct an experiment together: He wants to prove that ghosts are actually created by the people who imagine them and she wants to write a story about it. Oh, and also, they’re a couple. Everything works out fine, until *gasp* Adam, the ghost they created, becomes more real than they ever thought he would.

Right…

The book is not bad. It’s actually really depressing in it’s mediocrity. If it was worse, one could have had a good laugh. If it was better, one could have enjoyed it. What one’s left with is this sense of “oh, come on, you call that a plot twist or a surprise ending?” and of course, “oh, come on, you call that a whole character?”

And you know what? Quoting Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is not going to convince me that ghosts actually have a scientific foundation.
If the science *snicker* wasn’t so obviously put in the book, I wouldn’t have minded, probably even found it interesting. But as it is, it feels like Ambrose is sitting behind a tree, rubbing his hands as he watches you approach the book. And when you open it, he jumps out and shouts, “GOTCHA!!! YOU ARE READING SCIENCE!!!” Then he breaks into maniacal laughter and fails to notice that you haven’t quite come past the dedication yet.

Just to give you an indication of how awesome this book really is: I’m someone who can’t let go of books. I even have the one Nora Roberts novel I bought when I was twelve, not knowing better and can’t bring myself to throw it out. Or give to charity. Or sell for 10 cents (which would be about 100 times it’s value).
But with Superstition, which I bought at Oxfam’s in York, I had no problem to give it back to Oxfam’s in Nottingham once I was finished. I didn’t even think twice about it. That’s how good that book was.

Motherless Brooklyn (Jonathan Lethem)

Motherless Brooklyn is the first really successful novel by Jonathan Lethem. It’s about Lionel Essrog, a PI with Tourette’s. When his boss and father figure gets killed, he sets out to find out what happened to him.

It was a fascinating read – when I was younger I always dreamt of becoming a neurologist and curing Tourette’s. Those dreams abruptly ended when I discovered that I had to know chemistry for it to come true. Nevertheless, I still retained a fascination with it (and other neurological disorders). My curiousity was pretty satisfied by the read.

Lionel’s case of Tourette’s rather severe, his tics range from shoulder-tapping over counting to echolalia. You get used quickly to his tics and it gets weird when he doesn’t have to do them. You keep thinking that something’s missing.
The echolalia was the perfect “excuse” for Lethem to make some experiments with language which were amazing, opening up new layers of meaning just beyond what would have been written without it. [And I love the phrase dickweed. Just waiting for a chance to use it.]

The story itself is thoroughly thought through [(c) Stephen Fry] but not really surprising.

It definitely made me want to read Fortress of Solitude. And it also made me look forward to the movie even more. Additionally to Edward Norton.

Meme Again

Here’s the second meme by L.

… happiness?

Desireable and attainable, I think. Or at least hope. Sometimes I’m very close, especially when my family and/or friends are close by or I’m reading a good book. Or there’s a good movie on. Or I share a kiss with someone special.

… pain?

A part of life. Unfortunately. But sometimes a bit of pain is necessary. Like when you read an Ian McEwan (or similar) novel or watch a sad movie. There’s a certain romanticism to it (close to the romanticism of death) that sometimes really helps to make it not only berable but makes you look for it.
When you want to cry or scream to let it all out and it actually works and you feel so relieved – that’s one of the best feelings in the world.

… fear?

Not good. I don’t like it (but who does?). But the adrenaline rush that comes with it – that I do like.

…music?

Wonderful. Such a simple, yet very effective way to communicate emotions. Sometimes it makes me realise the mood I’m in. Sometimes it makes me change my mood. But mostly, the world would be a poorer place without it.

Do you like being alone?

Yes, I do. I like being with people, but I need my hour or so alone time a day. I can get really cranky if I don’t have it.

Do you like being in huge groups?

Depends on the group. If I know everyone, or almost everyone, it’s fine. If my role is clearly defined (for example that I am the trainer) that’s ok. But I hate parties or gatherings where I don’t know anyone. Then I tend to stand in a corner, get claustrophobic and try to hide.

meme developed by L. –

I tag Deadra and again the guys, Swen, bApH and Presti. [Sorry if you feel overtagged, but my blogosphere is not that big.]

Food Meme

L. tagged me, twice. So here’s the first one:

What’s your favorite dish?

I love Sushi and Pizza and my parents’ vegetable soup. But I don’t need to have them everyday.

Your least favorite dish?

I eat almost everything. And I try basically anything (in Africa, I even tried maggots). I draw my line when it comes to innards (mostly. Haggis is an exception), cats, dogs and horses. And I hate brussel sprouts. And pickles. And porridge, milk rice and semolina pudding.

…dessert?

Nothing beats chocolate (the darker the better). Except maybe ice cream. Don’t like vanilla or white chocolate. I don’t like pudding either. But I love jelly.

Decoration for table?

Usually, on my table are like 50 books I didn’t put in the shelf yet. I don’t know if you’d call that decoration.

What is essential for a good meal?

I have to go with L. and say good company, a lot of talking and laughing. But also, there should be vegetables and very good dessert.

Are you a good cook?

Usually, everything I cook ends up being one giant stew which looks horrible but tastes good. I’m a pretty good baker. Although here as well, my bakings really look homemade but taste perfect.

– meme developed by L. –

I tag Shefaly, because she really likes food. Babsi, because she likes food as well and that probably will get her back to blogging. Deadra for the same reasons. And the guys, presti, Swen and bApH. Have fun!

Brands

Got tagged by Shefaly. Interesting one. It’s about the brands I use on a normal day, so here we go.

I exclude clothes, because I usually wear no name stuff (and if not, I wouldn’t know) and food, because that differs too much. Also, books & publishers.

I hope I don’t forget anything. I make no promises except that I try :)

9.00

Silva (Can’t find a picture of it, it’s my alarm clock)

9.10

Silva

9.20

Silva

9.30

Silva Blend-a-medmentadentGlem VitalNiveaFa

10.00

Fujitsu SiemensiGoogleFirefoxYahooMS OutlookWordpresslastfmSony EricssonWindows Media PlayerTelering

11.00

U-Bahn Merkur

12.00

MS OutlookMicrosoft ExcelMicrosoft WordWordpresslastfmiGoogleWikipedia

18.00

U-Bahn Billa

22.00

U-Bahn VLCDaewoo and see 10.00

until some time between 24.00 and 2.00

Blend-a-medmentadent

I think that’s it. As Shefaly, I’m a creature of habit, using the same brands since years.

I tag anyone who thinks it’s interesting to see how brands shape their life.

The Return From The Island

Yes, as you might have already noticed, I’m back. And here’s what I’ve been up to.

Wednesday, May 21st, Vienna:

I spend the day doing some laundry and trying to clean a little bit of the messy state my flat’s currently in, rather unsuccessfully. And I pack, of course. At 5.30 pm, I leave and catch the bus to Bratislava.

Still Wednesday, Bratislava:

My flight leaves from Bratislava for two reasons: a) There’s no direct connection between Vienna and East Midlands and b) it’s cheaper. I fly with RyanAir, although I really, really, really don’t like them (because of my trip to Glasgow, but that’s a different story) but I figure that it’s a short flight and a direct one, so what the hell.
Bratislava Airport is the smallest airport I know, it’s got two cafés, two duty free stores and one with magazines and water and chewing gum and stuff like that. Fortunately, I don’t have to spend much time there (unlike in Nairobi, which had an equal amount of stores and one café, albeit on a bigger area, but again, that’s another story). So I get out my book and start reading (“Motherless Brooklyn” by Jonathan Lethem, btw. Review follows). Boarding starts, our tickets get checked but we are not allowed to actually board the plane, we have to wait in a glass waiting room until everyone’s there and then we are allowed to proceed. We are late which is not good because I should catch a bus about a half hour after landing – if we’re on time.
I get a seat in the last row, near the door, which is good because I will be out quicker and probably still be able to catch the bus. I try to explain to the woman next to me that she’s sitting in an emergency row and therefore has to either speak English or move [the stewardess asked me to do that, it’s not something I made up], which proves quite hard because she doesn’t speak any of the languages I speak and my Russian isn’t good enough and not close enough to her Slovac. With pointing and mimicking, she finally sits somewhere else and I have all the three seats to mysels (ha!). And we’re ready to take off.
I spend the flight reading and, as the conclusion of the book draws closer, I start listening a little to my English neighbours, because it’s the only book I’ve packed, except Labour Law, which I really don’t want to read. I know, once there, I will spend all my money on books and DVDs, so why pack more? That I’d almost finish my book on the flight already, I didn’t foresee.

Amazingly enough, still Wednesday, East Midlands – Nottingham:

I make it over the ocean and we safely land in EMA – and we’re too early. My reaching of the bus should be safe. Nevertheless, I jump out of the plane and try to be the first at the passport control (I’m 5th or so). And then I have to wait for my luggage, of course. Grumbling I stand there until my backpack turns up. I change some money (inwardly cursing the UK that they don’t want to have the Euro, but at the same time grateful that the pound is rather low), and still have time for a smoke before the bus comes. Yay!
Everything seems to work out fine. I am reminded that you really can’t read in a British bus, roundabouts and all. I arrive in Nottingham, I see Beeston busstation and give Babsi a ring to let her know that I’m almost where I should get off and that she please come to the busstation I need to get off to pick me up.
The bus drives on and stops a couple of times, every time I almost twist my head off to see which station we’re at and if it’s already Dunkirk Lace Street (I have to look at the bus stop signs outside because the thing inside’s not working). In my effort to see the sign, I actually miss Babsi, who’s at the station already and thankfully makes the bus stop (or else I might have gone on until I was out of Nottingham again).
We walk to her place and she tells me about the first part of the trip, where she and abstrakt went to the south and that they lost one of the mirrors of the car. We arrive at her flat (which she shares with four other people), where abstrakt is waiting, I get a toast (in the unbelieveably filthy kitchen) and a room and finally, I am able to sleep.

Thursday, May 22nd, Notts:

After some breakfast, which is not English yet, because no one bought baked beans or tomatoes or bacon or ham or sausages, we drive to the car rental place to show the broken mirror (interesting thing: It looks like somebody took the glass because nothing else is gone or damaged. Maybe somebody needed a new mirror). They don’t have another car, so we decide to continue our road trip without the left side mirror and on the day where the gas price hit the highest level ever and we’re off to York (it only takes us about 35 minutes to find our way out of Nottingham).

Thursday, York:

When we arrive in York, I get an SMS with the message that my sister just had her baby. Just great. Perfect. Not 24 hours after I’m gone. She couldn’t wait until I get back or get it before I leave… *grumbles*
York’s a sweet city, with it’s medieval city center and the shambles and there are loads of street musicians around.

Lunch at The Parish, which used to be a church and now is a nice restaurant, where they have Yorkshire Pudding (not bad). Then shopping and city-ambling: we get some handmade fudge (mmmmmmmmmmm…. fudge) and I buy a book at Oxfam’s (Superstition by David Ambrose. Review follows). We have a look at the cathedral but don’t really go into it because we’re not willing to pay the high entry fee.
Then we conquer the city wall and are off to Manchester (time to leave the city: 20 minutes).

Thursday, Manchester:

The first thing we do in Manchester is look for a parking space. After about 3 rounds through the city center, we find one, and we’ve already seen the Ferris Wheel and The Printworks. We call the youth hostel (they still have beds – yay!) and then slowly make our way through the city center. We stop to see a group of dancers on the street (they don’t really have a planned out show, most of what they do is improvised HipHop), then stop again to get some blister plaster for me because my old sneakers decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to kill my feet.
We leave our bags at the hostel (Hatters, ok one), have some tea where Babsi and abstrakt start drooling over a Spanish looking guy and then I try to convince them that Manchester would be the perfect city to go to a pub with live music (seeing as so many good bands come from there). We ask at the reception and the girl working there tells us, that there’s a pub with live music right on the next corner. So we decide to go for a little walk and then go there and listen to whatever they have to offer. Well, after walking to all the corners around the hostels and not finding the pub, we ask someone on the street who has never heard of any pub near there and sends us in a completely different direction, which takes us through the Chinese quarter to Oxford street where we actually find a pub with live music on Thursdays, but starting the next week only. Exhausted, tired and hungry, we finally end up in a Wetherspoon’s (zero points for originality, zero points for non-existant live music).
When we get back to the hostel, we almost straight away head for the bed, barely noticing that the drool-worthy upper body Spanish guy is in the same room.

Friday May 23rd, Manchester:

We get up in the morning to have breakfast at the hostel, burning some toast and generally making a mess (although not more than anybody else) all the while talking about the Spanish guy in German, who sits next to us, turns out to be Texan and talks to an Australian guy. (Sentences like “From the left he doesn’t look that good” and “I think, from right-above is his best angle” and girlish giggling shape the conversation.) When the Texan gets up and leaves, the Australian guy turns to us and says in German: “So, where are you from?” After a moment of embarrassing silence I tell him that we’re from Vienna and he tells us that he’s been working there for three years. We talk a bit till we’re finished with breakfast.
Babsi and abstrakt head for the bathroom and I stay there and start taking some notes on what went on the past few days and some quotes, when a guy asks me what I’m writing. We get to talking (he’s one of three guys in New Zealand sweaters) until Babsi comes back, when one of his friends tells her, “you’re pretty tall for a girl!” Babsi is about 1m80, which really is rather tall for a girl, even by my standards. I’m 1m73. But anyway, that’s not really polite… I tell him, “Well, we’ve never heard that before…” [Unfortunately, I didn’t think of saying that he’s rather short for a guy. He was about 1m60.] Then the following conversation ensues:
Babsi: “So, you’re from New Zealand?”
Kiwi 1: “How did you guess?”
Babsi: wordlessly points at sweaters
Kiwi 1: “Wow, tall and can read!”
Kiwi 2: “And pretty.”
Kiwi 3: “Pretty tall.”
Which basically had us laughing the whole trip.
Well, after that we walked through Manchester some more, this time in daylight. Well, Babsi and abstrakt are walking, I’m limping behind them (damn those feet and shoes and blisters!).
Manchester is a really cool city, it’s got flair and action and really cool architecture (also really bad architecture, but there’s no need to mention that). It’s a city I can very well imagine spending more time in. It reminds me a bit of Glasgow. And I love that accent.

Finally, it is time for us to get back to the car and drive on to Liverpool. (40 minutes to find out of the city.)

Friday, Liverpool:

We park the car and get out and I have to give up right away. I make it to the tourist office where I see all the cool Beatles stuff and then I need to sit down and nurse my feet while Babsi and abstrakt look at Liverpool. From what they tell me, I haven’t missed that much as it was almost completely a construction site and we didn’t have time to go to the Beatles Museum anyway, but still… I love the Beatles, I’m in their hometown and all I saw was what we drove by (which is the Hard Day’s Night Hotel). *sniffles* Well, I already decided that I need to go back there. And to Manchester.
When they get back, we get something to eat and then make our way back to Nottingham. (1 hour to find out of the city, first bathroom break therefore about 10 miles from the city limit.)

Friday, Nottingham:

We arrive late, but thanks to the great opening hours of Sainsbury’s (generally, English supermarkets. Austria should really loosen up on her opening hours regulations), we can still buy food, which is sorely needed for the next days.
We get back home, have dinner, talk a bit to Babsi’s flat mate M. and then go to sleep.

Saturday May 24th, Nottingham:

After breakfast (and this time it’s English), we drive the car back to the rental place, bid our farewells to it and then continue on foot through the city. We see the train station, go past Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem (the oldest pub in England, since 1189), up to the Lace Place [I’m not sure if it was actually called that, but I think it’s very fitting], where I find Robin Hood in lace which I find so disturbing that I have to have it. Now I just need to find out what to do with it.
Then we take fotos with Robin Hood himself, or better with his statue, which we abuse as William Tell, sit on the lap of and hug.

Robin Hood Shoots His Last Arrow

Finally, we make it up to the castle, with another short stop in the souvenir place, where I buy Robin Hood and Maid Marian Action Figures. (Makes me grin just to think about them.)
The castle is really nice, especially the park around it and there’s a cute little guy running around in a Robin Hood outfit (I wonder how often I will have typed Robin Hood at the end of this post). We wander through the museum and then Babsi and abstrakt are off to take the tour through the caves under the castle, which I’m not able to do because I still can’t really walk.
I turn to go to the Olde Trip, when I run into a colleague from my summer university certificate programme, who is a Canadian but studies in Austria and is in Nottingham to visit a friend. We are both flabbergasted by the coincidence, talk for a while and then we both go in opposite directions.
When Babsi and abstrakt are done with their tour, we meet in the pub and have meatpie and fish and chips before we hit the city centre to empty Primark. I buy some new shoes (and am finally able to walk more or less without pain) and some tops and some earrings and and and… When we’re done, or better, when Primark closes, we head back home to get ready for a girl’s night out.
We stop at a small shop to get some tomatoes and I find a Cosmopolitan (which I usually don’t read, but every once in a while it’s funny. And they have a free book this month – Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell, which I’m sure will be high class literature). So before we actually get ready to party, we leaf through sex advice, naked men and fashion guides.
Also, we eat spotted dick and wonder about the origins of that name.
Well, finally it’s time to go dancing. We go to the Oceana, a club with 3 floors – House, Disco and HipHop (a concept which also could come to Austria at some point).
At one a.m. my feet start to give up, but I make it until 2.30 (I’m so getting old). Then we drive home, have some midnight crisps and go to bed.

Sunday May 25th, Nottingham:

After sleeping rather long, we head again to the city centre. We go to Chocolate Utopia – the perfect place.

After that, I go to WH Smith and Babsi and abstrakt give Primark another go. I finish slightly earlier then they do and spend some time at Starbucks, finishing my book so I can start with one of the newly boughts right away.
When Babsi and abstrakt come back, fully loaded with new clothes, we go to the Pitcher and Piano, once a church and now a really cool pub. We drink something, eat some nachos and then we flee from the English weather into the safety of Babsi’s home, where we cook and spend a nice night inside.
By the way, the Dalai Lama came to Nottingham that day. Probably to spiritually cleanse the city after we were there.

Monday May 26th, Nottingham:

In the morning we go to the university to see where Babsi spend most of her time (probably) the last year. And damn, that’s a beautiful university. Although we are almost blown into oblivion in the park, it is quite a place, full of ducks, geese and squirrels.

We go for a walk, then have a look at the library and finally go to the pub there. Then it’s time to go home and finish packing. And at three, abstrakt and me take the bus to the airport. We check in and then go looking for somewhere that sells postcards. But unfortunately, the only place at the airport that sells some only has postcards from Derby and the Peak District. No Nottingham. So, everybody who expected a postcard: I’m sorry. We didn’t have time to write some and when we did have the time, there were none. So no postcards this time.
Finally it’s boarding time and it’s time to say good bye, England.

Monday, Bratislava:

At nine, we arrive in Bratislava, grab our bags and look for the bus to go back to Vienna. The first Austrians are already about and it almost feels like home. Also, it’s pretty warm, 20°C and no wind – after England that’s pure luxury. We have to wait for almost an hour till the bus leaves and we spend the drive talking and recapulating the trip.

Monday, Vienna:

Finally, we arrive in Vienna, at about 11.30 p.m. Abstrakt’s dad picks her up and is nice enough to drop me off at home. Finally. And that’s the end of the trip.

England

I’m off to my almost yearly trip to the British Island, this time, it’s Northern England.

I’ll be back Monday evening, so don’t expect a post before Tuesday.

Here’s a bit of English humour, so you may feel with me (from “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”):

Music and Humorous Nostalgia

Thanks to Swen, I finally got the last kick in the ass needed to join lastfm and am now enjoying myself immensly (and hopefully somehow repaying him for that) by spaming him with recommendations.

Anyway, we got to talk about Travis and I was reminded of two of the greatest pieces of comedy ever, both involving the really cute Fran.

So, for your enjoyment I bring you:

Their first piece of absolutely amazing comedy:

Their second piece of absolutely amazing comedy:

So Unlike Me

Yesterday was Movie Time! I finally got around to seeing Iron Man. (Ok, that is still like me, I’ll let you know, when it’s not anymore.)

There where cool trailers before the movie. (One of the trends that majorly piss me off, is that they show about 10 minutes of advertisement for cell phones and against video piracy and then – if you’re lucky – they show you one trailer. Not this time…) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which I’m very excited about. The Happening, which sounds interesting but as it’s a M. Night Shyamalan film after about 5 minutes there will be the first obvious plot “twist” and it will continue to “surprisingly twist” its way and steal 2 hours of my life, if I actually decide to watch it. But goddammit, he has good trailers. And some other trailer I enjoyed but can’t for the life of me recall right now. [Edit: It was Hancock. I really hope that film will be all it promises to.]  [This is all still like me.]

Anyway, Iron Man was great. Although not the most creative or innovative film ever (at least plot-wise), the story’s good, the acting very good [Jeff Bridges hasn’t played that well since The Big Lebowski] and the A.I. soooooooooooooooooooo cute. [And I knew that I knew Jarvis’ voice.]

And here’s the turning point.

At that exact moment I stopped being myself and started thinking “Oh WOW, Robert Downey Jr. is frigging hot!” Not that I don’t think about guys that way, but Robert Downey Jr.? He’s a deadra kind of guy. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just usually the opposite of my taste.

It even came to the point where I began pondering about who’s gonna be hotter in The Incredible HulkEdward Norton or Robert Downey Jr. This should not be happening.