August 17th, 2009

Piano playing

There's a Piano in my Kitchen

At eight o'clock this morning chaps arrived to clear the dining room ready for carpet fitting. Everything here is so small that the sitting room is now full of furniture, the table is in the garden and the piano had to go in the kitchen. They had the wit to get some hardboard to protect the new floor. Really, I shouldn't complain but...I can't even get at the kettle! I'm pretty well confined to the computer so further bulletins are likely.

All the Nice Girls

When I was at school a tattered ensign hung in the hall, where we could see it every morning in assembly. It had been presented by the captain of the minesweeper HMS Coverley, one of four ships adopted by the school in the far off (to us) days of the war. I’d forgotten all about it until I read All the Nice Girls by Joan Bakewell, which tracks the consequences for a Lancashire school of just such an adoption.

The book opens like a school story. ‘Miss Maitland, the tall, straightbacked headmistress, mounted the rostrum, announced the opening hymn. She surveyed her school with quiet satisfaction, knowing each girl by name and watchful for any fidgeting.’ She then tells the excited girls that the school is going to adopt a ship . The visit of Captain Josh Percival and two of his young officers to the school sets off a chain of events which will affect for ever the lives of the headmistress, two of the girls and another cast of characters, living in 2003.

I enjoyed the school scenes in the book; hardly surprising, since Joan Bakewell was drawing on her own experience for them. For the rest, she has depended on research and I wish publishers would learn that a lot of period detail, indeed, instruction, does not make for period feel. People writing at the time would not have bothered to mention that the polish used was Mansion or the sauce HP. Editors don’t really deserve the fulsome thanks they get from the author when they let through irritating slips. As I remember the film In Which We Serve, the Bernard Miles character doesn’t die. Margaret Tarrant did not draw the Flower Fairies. Annoyances like this distract the reader from the narrative thread.

The idea for the plot is a good one and the construction is neat. For me, though, it's The Cruel Sea meets South Riding and doesn't quite come off.

Win an Emma Bridgewater Mug!

Bloomsbury Books are offering an Emma Bridgewater mug like this

to publicise Matthew Rice's book Rice's Architectural Primer. Details here.

I've loved Matthew Rice's designs since I started buying his Advent calendars from the nearest National Trust shop. This book looks to be very useful; I wonder if it will replace my ancient Observer's Book of?