Monday, 5 November 2012

Telling Stories

Before anything else... thank you for your response to my last post. When I started to read your comments I felt guilty... as though I was courting your compliments... which couldn't have been further from the truth. I was just having a slight crisis of confidence that I might be boring the pants off you with endless baking. But I appreciate you taking time to respond, I appreciate your kindness and most of all I appreciate your advice. And so there will only be one blog from me for the time being...

As well as baking, one of the other things I have been doing a lot of recently is reading. Sometimes I have more time for this than others and I tend to read more in the darker mornings. Most days Stewart leaves to catch an early train and brings me up a cup of tea about 6 am. I sit up in bed with my cuppa and a book until it is light enough to get up and walk the dog. The longer is stays dark the more I read. Although I have been devouring fiction at a rate of knots, this year I have particularly enjoyed biographical tales. Not those celebrity type 'kiss and tell' tomes that appear at this time of year, but books about people with an interesting story to tell. I am a great fan of Grayson Perry; I admire his work immensly and think that among the contemporary art world he stands alone against the pretentious clap trap that accompanies much modern art. He speaks a lot of common sense, comes across as a thoroughly decent chap and he makes the most fascinating art. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl is an intellegent story of his formative years. And despite a childhood that was far from easy, it is an uplifting tale of success, filled with the wonderful intellegence, wit and the characteristic insight that accompanies Perry's work.

Another story of success despite a difficult childhood is the autobiography of Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal. I read her semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit many years ago and this latest book fills in the gaps between the truth and the fiction and makes for a fascinating read, often sad but ultimately an inspiring story of a search for identity.

One Man and his Bike was an unlikely read for me. When I was in Devon recently I had a couple of hours to kill on my own in Paignton. As well as the usual chains and the surfeit of charity shops there was a wonderful little independent book shop where I happily spent most of my free time. After browsing the shelves for so long, I felt I ought to buy something and for some reason this book appealed to me. One day, Mike Carter, a freelance journalist, feeling that he needed a change in his life, got on his bike in London and followed the Thames out to sea to embark on a 5,000 mile bike ride around Britain's coastline. It is a funny, often hilarious tale of adventure and discovery, kindness and generosity and a country of which we should be proud.
And my latest biographical read has been Julie and Julia which as you know I have found very inspiring. I loved the film inspired by this book but I loved the book more. By her own admission, Julie Powell is often foul mouthed and at times totally barking but frequently very funny and her determination and spirit are to be admired. And her husband is a saint!
Four stories about real people with interesting things to say and each one a testimony to the human spirit. Do you have a favourite biographical tale?


  1. Never bored with any part of your posts Gina. The textiles and the baking make me try harder on a good day and comfort eat on others!
    The books sound most interesting with a lovely varied mix of characters - I must look out for them even though I have a stack of about 10 waiting to be read!

  2. Somehow my 'reading time' has disappeared... I used to read in bed before going to sleep, then switched to mornings before I got up. But in the past year or 2 my timetable has changed. I must learn to read while sitting on the sofa (something I've only ever done while ill!).

    The Grayson Perry book looks interesting. I heard Janette Winterson read her book on the radio - am I alone in thinking she sounds very snobbish?

    Glad you've plumped for just one blog - I wouldn't read a 'just baking' blog but enjoy the cakes randomly scattered among the other creative things.


  3. I loved Nigel Slater's 'Toast'.

    My reading has gone out of the window recently. There just don't seem enough hours in the day and I feel stupidly guilty for reading during the daytime - it feels too self-indulgent. As I have no commute, there is no natural book interlude, but I do miss it.

  4. I heard Jeannette Winterson read her book on the radio and enjoyed it. Like Ali I enjoyed Toast although I since discovered Nigel was a bit economical with the truth and the tv adaptation was very far from reality according to his step-sisters (not mentioned in the book). Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family is tempting me.

  5. Thank you for all those recommendations. My reading has gone completely to pot of late but, like Ali, I recently read Toast and loved every word of it. I'll be adding these to my Wish List.
    I didn't get round to commenting on your last post, but I'm in agreement that one blog that ticks lots of boxes is my kinda thing!

  6. I seem to have got out of the way of reading books I'm afraid, I have The Ivington Diaries by Monty Don sitting waiting to be read, I really must pick it up.
    Toast is another book I would love to read as Nigel is my favourite TV cook!
    One Man and His Bike sounds like a book my husband would enjoy!
    Vivienne x

  7. I might search out the Grayson Perry at the library Gina. This post made me realise that I don't read much biographical stuff at all, especially since struggling with Edmund de Waal and the 'Hare with the Amber Eyes'. For 'real time' writing I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the books by poet Kathleen Jamie. They are all good but 'Findings' is just beautiful. She is a lyrical writer bar none.

  8. Looking like some great books there -- I'd love to read One Man and His Bike for starters. I love to read, but haven't been able to lately -- my schedule is awful, so if I sit down to read anything I fall asleep. As for splitting your blog -- I definitely vote to keep everything together -- like you, I love all aspects of life and it's fun to read about them. Multiple blogs are more work for you AND more work for the reader!

  9. I enjoyed the Grayson Perry book and particularly remember the importance of sheds and his ability to go to the "shed in his head" when necessary. A couple of autobiographies I haven enjoyed: Clarissa Dickson Wright and also Janet Street Porter. Both came from the library.

  10. Great recommendations, thanks Gina :)

    As I write biography I mostly read biography, rather than auto biography, but Augusten Burroughs 'Running with Scissors' is on my list of books I recommend.

  11. I found Deceived With Kindness by Angelica Garnett fascinating many years ago - she is a child of Bloomsbury, also Monty Don's Jewel Garden. Working in the library all my life, I probably read far too much!!!

  12. I enjoyed Grayson's book very much as well. I adore biographies, especially autobiographies. Recently I read Nina Bawden's autobiog which was interesting. The Three of Us by Julia Blackburn was great, Bad Blood by Lorna Sage, Keeper by Andrea Gillies (about looking after her mother-in-law who had Alzheimer's) was very good. Anything (non-fiction or fiction) by Tim Parks, who's my favourite author...

  13. Having just come out of the other side of 5 huge volumes of A Game of Thrones I'm ready for a bit of light relief so I'm now reading Miranda's book 'Is it just me?' and it's really fitting the bill.

    I was reading in the car between school visits today and was chortling away :o)


  14. Thanks for the tip about Grayson Perry's book - I will look for it. I admire his work as well.

    The Jeanette Winterson book is one I have been planning to read - now with your recommendation, I'll do so.

    I got half way through Julie and Julia - then gave it to my chef-cook-baker daughter, Grace as she had a big trip to take and needed some reading.

    Like many of the others who have commented here, my reading has been difficult to keep up lately. I used to read in the mornings, but then, because that time seemed to be the best for meditating and being on the 'liminal' edge of new ideas for my art, I have been trying to focus just on that - a time for considering how to make my dreams come true, in a way.

    I really miss the reading however, and you have inspired me to find that time again.

    Lovely to read your blog, Gina.


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