Sunday, February 10, 2013


Ok, it’s a few days on from my angry rant, and I’m still smarting, but with every day, a little more dust has been kicked over the bonfire, the bathwater has cooled to below scalding, and I’m in the mood to write something positive. Well, I’ll rephrase that, perhaps we should just say that I don’t feel like having another rant.

When man lets us down, what is required is a counter-balance of human action which reminds us that we’re not all bad, that the same propensity that serves us ill can also restore our faith in our fellow man. Within minutes of posting, I received kind words from concerned friends: Text, email, blog message, all assuring me, through the simple act of contact, that people care. In a world where it is easier to contact someone than ever before, albeit, based on the level of inanity on twitter and facebook (guilty as charged) these are mediums for the self publicist (err, Jon, you’re writing a blog!) Shouldn’t we all make the effort to be an encouragement to someone each day. How difficult would that be?

I’ve just started my fourth book of the year, and its Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I don’t tend to ever buy a current new release (unless someone un-imaginatively buys me a WH Smiths voucher) and I have a ‘back catalogue’ of novels which I feel I should have read. I have to be careful, as reading books can certainly make us become elitist to the point of foppishness. I always think that individuals who, in conversation ask ‘Have you read….?’ are the height of insensitivity or arrogance. How many books are there out there, so what are the chances of the recipient to the question being able to answer in the affirmative unless the subject is Harry Potter, The DaVinci code or Lord of the Rings. Interestingly, Wikipedia sites ‘A Tale of two Cities’ as the best selling book ever, and I’ve read that. To my shame also in the list was ‘The joy of Sex’ and ‘The Happy Hooker’ which I clearly remember doing the rounds among all my compatriots (including me) when I was about 13!

I was invited to a ‘Think tank’ discussion this week which included some fine food and wine (fortunately) some brilliant minds and little old me. When I got the invite, I actually phoned up to check that they hadn’t mixed me up with a relative of the racing driver John Cobb who tragically died in 1952 at Loch Ness trying to break the water speed record. (Some people believe the accident was caused by the craft hitting a wake caused by a large animal!) Anyway, no, it was me they wanted, but here was a conversation peppered with references to great theologians and philosophers. The height of postulation!

Conversation which included the words ‘it is my assertion that when Aristotle said…’ or ‘the existentialism in your theory dear sir borders of the verge of being Nietzschest’ resulted in Jon nodding sage-like, whilst rubbing ones chin as if in contemplation mode. How very Machiavellian of me!! (geddit?)

File:Niccolo Machiavelli.jpg
Machiavellian: 'The employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or general conduct'

So, for fear of being presumed literary, here is a list of books that I read in 2012. It matters not if you have read them all, read one, or never even heard of them. That’s the beauty of reading, it’s like running, it can simply be a selfish pursuit which has no other agenda than for our own edification and delectation!

1.      Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
2.      Charles Dickens, a life by Clare Tomalin
3.      Sketches of young gentlemen and young couples by Charles Dickens
Ok, it was the guys’ 200 anniversary that year!
4.      The Long Valley by John Steinbeck
5.      The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (a new discovery for me, loved him!)
6.      The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7.      The Island by Victoria Hislop (Chick-lit)
8.      Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh (truly excellent)
9.      For whom the bell tolls by Ernest Hemingway
10.  Lady Chatterleys Lover by DH Lawrence (a compromise, rather than reading 52 shades of grey!)
11.  The House of the Dead by Dostoyevsky
12.  Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky (what was my crime to deserve such punishment?)
13.  Farewell my Lovely by Raymond Chandler
14.  The curious incident of the dog in the night time by Mark Haddon (A joy)
15.  The Fear Index by Robert Harris
16.  A skeptics guide to faith by Philip Yancy (the only Christian writer I devour)
17.  Of mice and men by John Steinbeck
18.  To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee (her only book don’t you know!)
19.  The mystery and history of the Arnolfini portrait by Carola Hicks

So, as you can see, I’m working through a back catalogue of a lot of books I feel I should have read. But I look to intersperse them with novels which are recommended, typically through the excellent Radio 4 show ‘A good read’

I can tell when I’m trying to be something I am not, or perhaps I’m doing myself an injustice and I am trying to better myself, but who in their right mind reads two Dostoyevskys?

It’s good to keep my feet on the ground, and I think Life of Pi will do this as I found myself watching this on my own on Christmas eve in the cinema! I could see the canoodling couples, the happy families looking either sympathetically or accusingly at me, Billy no mates.

It is a long story, and for once it didn’t involve an argument with the wife, but I was killing time waiting for my daughter to finish work so we could drive up north to join the advance guard, but I can still feel the shame.

Going to the cinema on your own is strictly taboo! But at least if you go on your own you don’t chat loudly. Cinemas have become such noisy environments! There’s always someone who doesn’t turn off their phone, popcorn cannot be eaten quietly, and neither can anything be drunk through a straw in a similar manor. I hark back to the good old days of a small plastic carton of kia-ora, perhaps some spangles, the air thick with the smoke from the boys smoking their Embassy number tens and the sound of slurping kisses from courting couples on the back row.

Oh, and a movie being a U, A, AA or X!

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