Thursday, 31 May 2007


My name is Ellie, and I'm an addict. A facebook addict. I cannot leave the damn thing alone, even when it is being silly. A recent quiz I did told me that my name, when used as an adjective, means 'Like in nature to a kangaroo'. Hmm. Look at me swimming!

Blessings duly counted

As I was walking through the carriage trying to find a seat on my train to work this morning, I passed a guy knocking back a can of lager in much the same way as many other passengers were enjoying their morning coffee. It made me grateful that, so far, the thought of going to work hasn't driven me to drink on my journey there, although occasionally it does lull me back to sleep so Macclesfield appears as a bit of a surprise...

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Bank Holiday Intake

Over the bank holiday weekend a planned camping trip (well, suggested would be more accurate...) was cancelled due to downpours and gales, as should only be expected for the last weekend in May. So instead of outdoor pursuits, or at least the pursuit of a good pub, we had to make do with indoor activities - our chosen pastime? Rediscovering films! HMV has a great deal on at the moment (3 DVDs for £20) and within it we managed to pick up a 3-pack of Merchant Ivory ('Howard's End', 'The Remains of the Day', 'The White Countess'), and two other films ('Amadeus' and 'Shakespeare in Love'. I know...). So we saw 'The Remains of the Day' and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', which S gave me for Christmas but we hadn't got round to watching. On Monday, I did suggest another Merchant Ivory, but S decided he'd rather do some cleaning while watching 'The High Life'...

I must confess that before Saturday I had somehow never seen 'The Remains of the Day' - what a masterpiece of repression and denial. I did find it interesting that in the '20 years later' sections everyone had been aged except for Emma Thompson (who I suppose did have slightly more grown-up hair, but was unchanged other than that) and Anthony Hopkins, who looked exactly the same as in their glory days.

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' is an old favourite for an afternoon in, especially if feeling a little 'dehydrated' following a night out. Dehydration was mainly due to the late night involved, but that was not the only reason considering some of the conversations (probably the only discussion of the correct chemical symbol for Tungsten on Canal Street last Friday, probably not the only discussion about whether the blonde girl in the corner with the gynaecologically short skirt was in 'Girls Aloud'). So we relaxed with a piece of cake and S managed to stay awake for at least 60% of the film (a real achievement!).

Due to tiredness and dehydration, I also had a weekend off from proper reading, and picked up 'The Sign of the Cross' by Chris Kuzneski. This is in the 'Da Vinci Code' vein, good for a long journey or weekend where you don't want to think too much. There's absolutely no subtlety in it, and a feeling that Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are just a homogenous Scandinavian blend of pine trees, saunas and Hamlet. I enjoyed it, even if I felt like giving most of the 'characters' (2D and utterly stereotypical) a good shake once in a while. All in all, a satisfying weekend, although a bit of sunshine wouldn't have hurt...

Friday, 25 May 2007


At work, I am lucky enough to have several good friends and generally to get on with pretty much everyone else. However, I (like most of my chums here) have a nemesis. My nemesis is somebody who, on the whole, I like, but has a major flaw nonetheless. This person eats breakfast at their desk, a custom we mainly embrace wholeheartedly, but then deposits the bowl straight into the sink (beneath the haunted tap) with Fruit & Fibre still clinging in congealing chunks to its innards. And does not return to wash it up. Ever. Heinous!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

75% down...

Am now another step closer to the Italian GCSE finish-line.

Coursework, speaking and listening? Check!

Reading? June 5th...

The Oxford Murders - Guillermo Martinez

This book was shorter than most I would buy (I read so quickly that I only really buy things that will last more than a day or two) but I really wanted to read it, having heard good things about it, and also because of the forthcoming film. I was curious to see how mathematical it was, but was relieved that the explanations of any esoteric concepts were thoroughly clear, even to a bear of very little brain. In fact, the writing was spacious and well thought out, with the feeling of every word having been carefully chosen to portray the scenes in an exact way. The reader is shown everything, but from an interesting angle that conceals the truth even if you are looking directly at it. I would be interested to read the original text, though this might have to wait for a while (Spanish isn't quite next on my list...).

It was nice to read a murder mystery without the violence with which stories of this genre are so often imbued. This was achieved without any loss to the story, and made it easier to suspect pretty much all of the characters. For several chapters I suspected every character in turn, and it was all plausible, so I was pleasantly surprised at the denouement to find that I was totally wrong. I love it when a mystery is cleverer than me!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Rosetta - Barbara Ewing

Egypt has always fascinated me, from the history, culture and architecture to 'Death on the Nile', so I'm a sucker for any books with a vague connection to all things Egyptian. I watched the BBC 'Egypt' series avidly, and loved the story of the race to translate the hieroglyphics using the Rosetta stone, with Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young (amongst others) competing to win the intellectual race of the age. The protagonist and narrator of this book, Rosetta (usually known as Rose), is also fascinated with Egypt, and listens enthralled to her father's tales of the town after which she is named. With the discovery of the Rosetta stone and its subsequent fall into English hands, Rose's other obsession, words, could have lead her towards the struggle to understand the ancient markings. Unfortunately, when she does go to Egypt it is to rescue her dead husband's illegitimate child, and she leaves almost as soon as she arrives. The rest of the story is rather disappointing, with Rose struggling to keep the child from her in-laws, and generally being a bit of a martyr about the whole thing.

My overall impression was that Barbara Ewing started off wanting to write an intellectual historical novel, with adventures in Egypt and insight into the discoveries of the day, but halfway through realised that it was easier to write a historical romance. I think I was disappointed because I was expecting the former, whereas if it had been packaged as the latter I would have read it with slightly different eyes and thoroughly enjoyed it. My brother experienced a similar thing when watching 'Gosford Park' - he expected it to be a detective story starring Stephen Fry, so wasn't impressed with the atmospheric portrayal of the upstairs-downstairs shenanigans of the Thirties. Now I know how he felt.

Coincidental Malacology

I'm partial to a good coincidence, and I experienced a particularly odd one last Wednesday. I had never come across the word 'malacology' (the study of molluscs) before, but it came up the new Kathy Reichs book ('Break No Bones') due to a crucial piece of evidence in the shape of a snail shell. On my long journey down from Manchester to Sussex, I finished 'Break No Bones', and moved onto 'The Single Helix' by Steve Jones. When reading his introduction, I was intrigued to find that he had started career as a malacologist. What were the chances...

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Dream squared

The other day, to my horror, I dreamt about work. Fortunately, though the dream was set at work, I didn't have to do any. In fact, there was almost an atmosphere of adventure throughout, though with an edge of surrealism thrown in. I dreamt that for some reason everyone had to spend the night in the office, and we were provided with camp beds and sleeping bags to put up under our desks while one of the Big Cheeses made us all cocoa (how terribly Famous Five of me - in real life I haven't drunk cocoa or any form of hot chocolate since a rather unfortunate incident involving food poisoning [Bleurgh]). In the dream, we all curled up on our camp beds and went to sleep, and I somehow managed to dream that I was both asleep and dreaming. My dream within a dream involved my colleague George (-ina, though no-one calls her that...) - we were in a bar and bored with our usual round of gin and tonics so decided to create a new drink, the Ginger Tonic, by adding ginger ale to the concoction. Just before I tried this interesting dream drink, I dreamt I was woken up by a colleague (back in the original, camping-at-the-office dream) who needed me for an Abstract Emergency (abstract as in short summary text to be submitted to a conference, not an emergency that was somehow detached from reality, though that would fit with the dream!). I'm not sure what this says about my sleeping brain, but on the whole it doesn't fill me with confidence...

Monday, 14 May 2007

Death at La Fenice - Donna Leon

I've always loved a good detective story, right from when the Famous Five or Nancy Drew were my investigators of choice, through Agatha Christie, Elizabeths George and Peters, Val McDermid, and Ruth Rendell, so the discovery of a new series is always exciting. I'd been meaning to sample some of Donna Leon's oeuvre for a while, but as the perfectionist I am, wanted to start at the very beginning (where else is there to start?!) and being lazy too, if it wasn't in Waterstones on the day I happened to think of it, I wasn't going to find it. Anyway, when I spotted it on the shelf as part of a 3-for-2 last week, I was rather pleased.

Being something of an Italianophile, the Venetian setting was lovely, and finding little chunks of Italian customs or intriguing bits of vocab liberally scattered though the pages was very interesting. I scampered through it at breakneck speed, and enjoyed the plot, but with mixed feelings. You see, I worked out not only who did it but why, and though there was an extra mini-twist it did only confirm my suppositions rather than turn them on their head. When reading detective fiction I always try to work it out, but seldom succeed, so when I finally did, it was a bit of a let down. Surely the author is supposed to know more/be cleverer than me?! On the other hand, this book is 15 years old (though my favourite Agatha Christies are four or five times that...) and it's the first in the series. Maybe with 'Death in a Strange Country' she will outwit me, though this will have to wait until I find it.

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