Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bonfires and Blitzes

Drove back to Beverley tonight as usual, but it was a bit of an odd experience. It's bonfire night, and there were massive firework displays, especially over Grantham, Newark, Lincoln and Hull. As I was driving I was listening to Forgotten Voices of the Second World War, which is a magnificent 12 CD set of original reminiscences. If you can get hold of it, buy it. It appears on eBay sometimes.

Anyway, the section I was listening to was about the Blitz. It felt most incongruous to be listening to these harrowing histories - thousands of bombs landing in a day, hundreds killed, when all around me were bangs and firework bursts. A freak of timing.

It's simply stunning what these people went through. First they had the incendiary bombs, which really just served to light up the city so the bombers could find it and drop the proper bombs. One story was about the bombing of the Cafe de Paris in 1941. This was considered safe as it was an underground cafe, but by hideous fluke the bomb entered a ventilation shaft and landed in the middle of the cafe, pretty much in front of the stage where Snake Hips Johnson was performing. I've just been googlin Snake Hips, and he was the first black swing bandleader in Britain. I'm fascinated, and will be trying to seek out any of his recordings. These random connections are amazing things.

Back in the Blitz, there was a marvellous story from the special constable on duty outside Lyons Tea Room in the middle of one of the worst attacks in May 42. To his left, a news-seller was shouting "Cup Final result, get the Standard" and dancing towards him as the incendiary bombs dropped among them was a prostitute singing "I'm singing in the rain." The voice concludes "I wish Hitler and Goering could have been there to see how frightening their Luftwaffe were."

I don't think we can begin to comprehend that common, everyday bravery nowadays.

Moving on to a different topic, if you've read previous entries you'll know I'd started Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I gave up before the end of disc one. Couldn't be doing with it, it just made me angry when I think I was meant to be laughing. I can't see much humour in a woman being so subjugated that she is barely allowed out of the house, and the stultifying environment in which she existed - like a Jane Austen novel peopled by simpletons - just left me horrified. There were hints that she was going to rebel, but not bloody fast enough for my liking. So that's another one jettisoned.

On the writing front, I've done 2000 words of critting today, but no new words. I'm in dispute at Boot Camp - I've done a luvvit on a story, that means I'm much, much higher on every element than everyone else. I'm convinced I'm right, and that people aren't reading the story properly.

Never mind, not long until Children in Need marathon night. Plenty of new words then...


Missy said...

I'm laughing because I loved Brick Lane! I will have to read it again with a different more critical eye but I thought it was excellent.

Tom Conoboy said...

Hi Missy

I feel guilty about slagging off Brick Lane, because I know it's well written, and I know Monica is a good writer (AK sends his regards, Monica) but I still couldn't get into it.

I've always had this horror of stories about women who are wonderfully intelligent but have to just marry some bloke instead of going to university and doing justice to themselves. I'd hoped that sort of crap was finished with Catherine Cookson and could be consigned to history, but this damned book told me otherwise.

I just feel strongly about people doing what they think they're worth doing. And so descriptions of an intelligent young woman cutting a middle-aged man's toenails, for example, because she is "married" to him, leaves me gasping with irritation rather than laughing at the wittiness of the writing.

I suspect the tables may turn later in the novel, but I'm afraid I never got that far. But, as I say, I am quite happy to agree that she is a very, very good writer.

Glad you liked it, and thanks for commenting.