I didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and hugg...moreI didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and hugged her tightly. I have been taking her for granted. She won't be around forever and I must appreciate her more now while she still has all of her faculties despite her difficulties with her mental and physical health. The next day I ran out and bought her flowers, chocolates and her favourite cheesecake as early Mother's Day gifts.
This is a collection of short autobiographical articles covering 10 years, originally written for the author's column in The Guardian. We begin with an 89-year-old independent grandmother called Clarice deciding to move from her home on the coast in Brighton to live with her 54-year-old daughter and 18-year-old granddaughter in London.
Generational gaps and culture clash / shock provide plenty of friction. Friends to compete, argue and console with are entertaining distractions. And frustrations take the form of form-filling and jobsworth bureaucracy, health issues with the associated numerous endless hospital and GP appointments, the expensive no value for money nursing homes, and the appalling attitude NHS hospital staff have towards the elderly and mentally ill. Quite a few of these things I've experienced myself with my own mother so I sympathise.
Hanson's mother is painted as an honest-to-a-fault, opinionated, food porn loving, make-do and mend scrimper and saver of money. She is sweet, brazen, stubborn and fascinated by all the sex on TV. In a word, she is lovable. I wish I'd had a grandma like her. As it is, my mother's got the honest to a fault part down. Getting her to lie is impossible. Even little white ones. "Does my bum look big in this?" "Yes, you need to lose weight." "I know! No need to tell me."
While Michele writes in a middle-aged, southern England mildly posh and slightly melodramatic and comedic way, her daughter Amy's extra long chapter towards the end is poignant and heartbreaking. Her grandmother's birthday wish for many years was to die and instead she seems to receive a new ailment. A stroke causing aphasia - a difficulty in communicating, particularly talking, was the worst. A previously animated, chatty and opinionated woman is at first reduced to silence and life became one long game of Charades, and then gradually she was able to say a few words at a time but they aren't always the right ones. Her daughter and granddaughter became excellent translators.
My mother was lucky. Her mini-strokes happened all at once, resulting in amnesia - including forgetting how to eat - and referring to herself in third person, taking months to recover.
I understood Amy's painful guilt, her inability to watch the indignities of ageing, the simple everyday activities we carry out and take for granted that become embarrassingly difficult and messy as her grandmother's body deteriorates and malfunctions.
It's amazing that Clarice lasted as long as she did, to a ripe old age of 99. Had she moved into a nursing home instead, I doubt she would've lasted 3 years let alone 10. Michele couldn't do that to her mother, didn't want the guilt or the worry that goes with letting others care for someone you love. She did everything she could to keep her mother mentally and physically active, and raising Clarice's spirits when she was depressed and longing for death.
Right now I'm doing the same. I've become concerned that my mother's mental agility is in peril. Dementia has become a concern and I've realised she has little stimulation since she fills her day with repetitive OCD activities. The jigsaw I bought was for us to do together but I suspect the number of pieces and the complexity intimidated her. Trying to get her to read new books is a nagging exercise, in fact anything and everything I try to introduce is outright rejected or reluctantly accepted but never done. This is going to be an uphill battle.
I recommend Living with Mother to everyone because not only will many of us be responsible for caring for our parents as life expectancy increases, but we are all ageing. Hanson's account informs us of what's in store for us in our futures, enabling us to decide on how we're going to cope.(less)
I've not read any of the classic versions before so certain elements leapt out at me that did not appear in Disney's adaption.
Here, Cinderella's father is alive and blindly infatuated with his wife while he neglects his daughter.
'Yet the poor thing bore this ill treatment very meekly, and did not dare complain to her father, who thought so much of his wife that he would have scolded her.'
An explanation of Cinderella's name leads me to wonder if her real name is Isabella.
'...she used to sit in the chimney-corner amongst the cinders, which had caused the nickname Cinderella to be given her by the family...'
And also known to her stepmother as Cinder-wench.
'elastic glass slippers' - an oxymoron, if ever there was one. If I didn't know any better, Hewet is referring to plastic. Plastic was in development at this time; the first type patented a year after publication.
The patronizing paternalistic morality of the commentary when referring to the rules imposed on the temporary freedom she is granted by her Godmother, the Queen of the Faeries, is shudder-inducing:
'...an everlasting lesson to all the pretty little Cinderellas in the world to keep their word, and to act in good faith by such as befriend them.'
I didn't realise that Cinderella spends more than one night at the ball with the Prince, though it makes more sense, giving him time to become fixated on his wife-to-be. Then, expending time and resources on finding her when she leaves for good without giving him a name with which to find her.
'...she not only forgave them with all her heart, but wished for their affection... allowed her sisters to lodge in the palace, and gave them in marriage, that same day, to two lords belonging to the court.'
I'm not the type to forgive and forget, but as Cinderella was deprived of love and affection from these people, she's in a position to demand it now. She can force them to kiss her shoes if she wished. However, there's no mention of what becomes of her stepmother or her father. Perhaps their fate is less rosy. (less)
Despite He Ain't Lion's rocky and repetitive start, it delivers the funny in spades with inventive swearing and crazy canibalistic thoughts, and dishe...moreDespite He Ain't Lion's rocky and repetitive start, it delivers the funny in spades with inventive swearing and crazy canibalistic thoughts, and dishes up a sexy, but self-conscious, plus-sized main character who upon meeting and bedding the alpha male of a lion shifter pride, transforms from a human female into a fierce and hungry shapeshifting alpha lioness. And there are no premature I Love Yous with the Happy Ever After!
The men here certainly seemed to like a girl with some cushion for the pushin’. At least, that’s what their gazes told her. Hell, even some of the ladies were giving Maya the same lustful glances. But tonight was not the night for lovin’ with the female persuasion, though. Maybe another time… [...] She had big hips, big thighs, and big breasts, all of which added up to a big woman.
I enjoyed Maya's transformation difficulties. She has no idea what is happening to her.
Reaching the back section of the store, she stared at the plethora of beef before her. And it had to be beef. Because chicken, fish, and pork, just weren’t gonna cut it. Part of her balked at her sudden, insatiable craving for meat, but the other part, the stronger part that seemed to be prowling, dragging its nails inside her brain, told her to grab it all and eat it raw, bathe in the blood to feed her hunger. Okay, ew, just yuck. [...] Maya growled at anyone that got too close. Her food. All hers!
Even her cannibalistic thoughts are funny. She doesn't act on them so it's okay to laugh.
As the smell of raw meat tempted her, called to her, she could hear the heartbeat of every passing shopper. And they all looked so delicious , reminded that growly-prowly sensation in her mind, seemingly interested in several of the individuals perusing the produce section. Maya licked her lips and swallowed the pooling saliva in her mouth [...] “Carly, there’s something really, really wrong with me. Like, really.” She knew she hadn’t just woken up this morning, and decided, “Hey, let’s be a cannibal today. Yay!”
When Maya's finally clued into her situation she utters some inventive swearing at the man responsible.
“You are absolutely perfect, just the way you are.” “Heh. You ain’t lyin’.”
I'm grateful that there are no cheesy I Love Yous, just "everlasting love, someday… just not quite yet" which is far more realistic after what she thought would be one wonderfully energetic one-night stand to get over her unappreciative ex-boyfriend. An extra chapter at the end would've been nice to rub the ex's face in it with her sexy new mate. Am I the only one to like a bit of revenge in my romance?
Although I'd like to continue with the series, I'm holding off because the price for the next story is too high for the number of pages - 44 pages for £2! (I'd want at least 100 pages for that) - so I'll wait.(less)
Wilde's anthropomorphizing parables are beautifully written, emotionally moving and exquisitely poignant; praising the laudable virtues of the Catholi...moreWilde's anthropomorphizing parables are beautifully written, emotionally moving and exquisitely poignant; praising the laudable virtues of the Catholic Church and warning of the shameful outcomes of the seven deadly sins. Themes of friendship and charity feature heavily with Christian overtones, which normally I find off-putting, but I didn't here. (I'm an athiest.) I think my favourite would have to be The Nightingale and the Rose. I'd definitely give this to children despite the unhappy endings.
The Happy Prince - Sins & Virtues: humility & charity
A formerly human prince is now a gold plated, jewel-encrusted statue watching over the city. His privileged human life didn't prepare him for the misery of the poor and unfortunate. Despite his nickname as the Happy Prince, he is sad and wishes to bring joy to those in need but is unable to as an inanimate object. A migrating swallow comes by on his way out of the city for his annual migration south to Egypt for the winter and is taken by the Prince's tears, feeling compelled to act out the statue's wishes by taking the Prince's decorative riches and delivering them to those in need. When the Prince is left blind and unadorned having given up his treasures for the greater good, the swallow vows to stay and become the Prince's faithful companion despite the deadly cold.
The Nightingale and the Rose - Sins & Virtues: lust & charity
A kind, charitable and beloved nightingale makes the ultimate sacrifice for what she thinks is love between a young man and a well-off young woman. If the man can produce a red rose out of season then the woman will dance with him. Only a heart's blood can create a red rose. The nightingale dies believing she has done a good deed, producing an everlasting legacy. The young lady lied and the rose is discarded without a second thought. What a waste.
The Selfish Giant - Sins & Virtues: greed & charity
A beautiful garden is the playground of children until a selfish giant shoos them out.
'The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom.'
Spring visits everywhere but the garden, leaving it barren and in the throes of winter. Until a child enters the garden and birdsong and blooming, perfumed flowers return stunning the giant into realising the repercussions of what he's done, and again allows children to play and share in the joys of his garden.
The Devoted Friend - Sins & Virtues: pride, acedia, sloth & diligence
A Linnet tries to teach a self-important Water-rat about the reciprocity of relationships via a story about an unequal friendship between two friends with radically different beliefs in what what friendship means. Hans is hardworking but poor. He is generous to a fault and never asks for anything in return. The other, is the wealthy and selfish Miller. His one generous act towards his so-called friend is used as blackmail for further favours, favours that Hans cannot afford to fulfil but does anyway because he doesn't want to let the Miller down. The Miller takes advantage and believes he's the best friend a man could ever have; sitting in his large, warm house sitting on his butt with a full stomach while Hans is impoverished and hungry, working his fingers to the bone, struggling to survive the harsh winter.
"Why, if little Hans came up here, and saw our warm fire, and our good supper, and our great cask of red wine, he might get envious, and envy is a most terrible thing, and would spoil anyone's nature. I certainly will not allow Hans' nature to be spoiled."
The Miller stands by while he works Hans into his grave. And the moral entirely escapes the Water-rat.
The Remarkable Rocket - Sins & Virtues: pride & vainglory
A vain and an unjustly boastful rocket believes he is better than every other firework and rebuts any indication that he is not with more prideful boasting, and is met with a most undignified end still under the delusion that he is the best of the rest.
The week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura suf...moreThe week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura sufferer. Migraines muddle thinking and reduce concentration. And for him, a migraine meant distorted vision. Disproportional Alice. Tall and small Alice. Strange tastes. Odd sights and sounds. Mixing up words. All inspired by migraines. Without knowing this, my experience of his most famous work would have been very different.
Carroll's preface is illuminating. The Mad Hatter's riddle has no answer. And he was quite generous, practically paying the public to read his story.
'Four shillings was a perfectly reasonable price to charge, considering the heavy initial outlay I had incurred: still, as the Public have practically said "We will will not give more than a shilling for a picture-book, however artistically got-up", I am content to reckon my outlay on the book as so much dead loss, and, rather than let the little ones, for whom it was written, go without it, I am selling it at a price which is, to me, much the same thing as giving it away.
I found this line from the introductory poem to be a highly accurate assessment of the story: "There will be nonsense in it!" Yes, lots and lots of nonsense. Most of it utterly boring. Skimming is the last resort of the desperate, and I was desperate. But I was thoroughly entertained by the rhyming poetry scattered throughout.
'I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye, How the Owl and the Panther were sharing a pie: The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat, While the Owl had the dish as its share of the treat. When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon, Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon: While the Panther received the knife and fork with a growl, And concluded the banquet by--"
You can guess what the next three words are. LOL.
I also enjoyed the occasional play-on-words.
"We called him Tortoise because he taught us."
And of course, the most famous quote of all:
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be, said the Cat, "or you wouldn't gave come here."
On why cats are the opposite of dogs:
"Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
The Queen of Hearts is a figure of fun. Who hasn't wished to wield the power of the throne to eliminate those who've slighted us?
"Collar that Dormouse!" the Queen shrieked out. "Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!"
On the prospect of decapitating a body-less Cheshire Cat:
'The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life.'
The Queen of Hearts indulging in her favourite sport isn't as lethal as one would think, which is a good thing because if every man, woman and animal she condemns to the guillotine were to really go to their deaths, there'd be no one left in Wonderland but the Queen herself.
Gryphon: "It's all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know."
Alice has never intrigued me. I did hope reading the original would endear me more than the countless TV and movie adaptions. Poetry aside, it didn't. However, I do take pleasure from viewing the tons of gorgeous artwork inspired by Carroll's story.
* I read the 1920 edition illustrated by John Tenniel available for free on Google Play.(less)