Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Surprise Prize

I was sittin' in me old winged armchair this morning, grumbling about the weather and the price of postage stamps and feeling a sneaky suspicion that I'd turned into an old grandpa somewhere along the line, when one of the boys sauntered in with a parcel, saying “Looks like your shower gel”. After giving it a good old rattle Barney added that it “feels like you’ve got about six bottles of it here. We told you not to order *that* batch! S’pose we’re all gonna run round the village ponging of ‘Lynx Aluminium’ now!”

I mumbled to put it on one side and said we’d stow it all away later before I went back to the mysteries of why my scanner wasn’t working with 64-bit architecture. I’m someone who hates geeks and geeky things when the current project drifts into realms I don’t understand, but once things have fallen into place and pennies have begun to drop, I admit to being quietly impressed, wondering why people don’t take a little more trouble to understand the mysteries of their black boxes.

That box of 6 shower gels, ordered in a moment of hypoxic haze, annoyed me by not being tidied away and I asked Barney to unpack it and stow it away as it looked as if we might be in for a storm. His sentence began with a whinge, but half-way through opening the package his tone changed to wonder. He said that the parcel appeared to be somewhat different. Unexpected and unexplained.

It was all in a "Whiskas" box which had presumably held an assortment of delicate meals for Puss, he said, adding that on the inner cardboard sleeve someone had written “Old People's Breakfasts”. So I decided that the solution was clear: An old people's home had stocked up on shower gel, and the new Health and Safety Rules had banned the old timers from using it in case they slipped. I speculated that tubs of Fullers Earth had been ordered instead and now the old folks could take dust baths along with their cats. Both cats and old ladies would be far cleaner than with shower gel, anyway.

My excuses and implausible explanations quickly run out as the contents of the box began to seed out like a tombola onto our ample table:

Lots of small parcels spewed out of the box, each individually wrapped in pink tissue paper. There was a sugar mouse with a string tail such as I hadn't seen since the days of Christmas stockings, sweets, shells, a plastic rattle, a stick of rock, a bubble-blower, little pot of sand, a clay pipe and last but not least, a yellow clammy slug. I think you're supposed to eat it!

The boys whooped and laughed like little kids — and everybody was completely baffled.
Which is where we leave the tale. A packet of Bulls' Eyes was included in the mix and they're so good, we're going to suck our way through those first, and then try to find out who sent them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It Ran Out of Steam!

Into the Darkest CornerInto the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t like stories where ladies go out to a disco for a good time “dancing in that red dress until I caught the eye of someone, anyone, and best of all finding some dark corner of the club and being fucked against a wall” and I like it even less when it’s from ladies who are personnel officers. Sluts who give interviews and hand out important jobs are certainly not by cup of tea. Indeed had I known that there was going to be an abundance of this type of language in the book, I simply wouldn’t have bought it.

However I’d bought it for a song, and whereas some people don’t mind throwing things away which they don’t use, I am not of that ilk. Neither was I going to waste my precious breath complaining to Amazon until they relented to give me my 99p back.

The story opens with a court scene with the two major players, the accused Lee Brightman and the – alleged – victim Cathy Bailey (really! couldn’t the author have picked another surname?). The dialogue doesn’t pick up very well on the Kindle so we see:

MR ---------------------------------------------------------------------

MACLEAN ---------------------------------------------------------------------

MR ---------------------------------------------------------------------


MR ---------------------------------------------------------------------

MACLEAN ---------------------------------------------------------------------

MR ---------------------------------------------------------------------

BRIGHTMAN ---------------------------------------------------------------------

with the dotted lines being the dialogue. Took a while untangling the skein there. Not a good start at all, so combined with my opening paragraph, which runs on with little if any separation, so it can be tricky seeing who’s saying what. And what is being said is pretty boring.

Nonetheless there were a few things which began to intrigue me slightly: Cathy can only go shopping on even days. She has to check the locks on all her apertures when leaving the flat, starting with the outer window and ending with the front door, and in the right order too. This twanged deep sympathy notes within me from my own past and furthermore when coupled with the realisation that Cathy was entering into an abusive relationship with Mr Brightman, chords in the minor key vibrated inside me, and I was siding with our heroine, desperately hoping she wouldn’t come to too much harm ~ even if she remained a committed two-dimensional character throughout the narrative.

As everything boiled up to a seething climax I sided with Cathy, urging her on to biff, bonk and humiliate and torture the nasty man with everything she’d got. I was jumping up and down clenching my little fists and cheering at the end as loudly as if Tottenham Hotspur had just scored a goal when, all off a sudden:

The tale ended.

We were 91% of the way through the book. The tale had ended. This is the bit where the audience rises and walks out of the cinema, with 9% of the film left to run. I don’t. I have to remain in the cinema until the last credit has been shown, the projecting equipment switched off and the lights have come back on. So I read and read and read, wading through the incredibly dreary bits. The new lover-boy, Stuart, is a one-dimensional being. He is quite attractive for me, but only because “he smells of hospitals”.

The dreary dialogue ends with yet another terribly-formatted court room scene, and after all that an incredibly boring spiel from the authoress relating what gave her the idea, and how she had started to form and draft the book.

Ms Haynes works for the Police Force, as I understand it. If she attends to her work with the same care she writes her novels, I’d begin to get a little concerned if she were to be in charge of my patch.

View all my reviews