If somebody you know writes a novel with strong autobiographical influence then one of the attraction of reading it is to find out and speculate about whom he writes about, how much of the story has really happened and in what ways it got changed and what has been left out and why. Out of this reason I did enjoy reading the book. So I liked best reading about the political protests and parts which were similar to things I experienced, like when the author sets the scene at a London squat or describes the Anarchist Bookfair.
Personally I found the writing style really good and the plot has enough tension for the reader to carry on reading one chapter after the other immediately. It is difficult to put the book aside, its a real page turner.. The book also has a good narrative with jumping forward and back in the time line like “Pulp Fiction”, but the end is left disturbingly open.
So is Deanne’s suicide, you wonder why she did it and what happened to her child, but no explanation is given.
I have also difficulties in determining who the target audience is for the book. At the start, particularly when it comes to a lot of swearing in Benny’s Burgers Bar, I thought the book would be aimed at not quite yet politicised teenagers. But later on, on page 177 when we finally encounter the first petrol bomb, I considered it being written for the already long-term activists, as there are hardly any factual explanations anymore about the aims and objectives of the protests and the strategy employed or even why Wayne was there. I don’t think it even mentioned that it was a EU summit and that protests at that time were vaguely about the enlargement of the EU. “Singled out for criticism were the EU’s refugee and immigration policies, complicity in the war in Iraq, and slashing of pensions. ” says Indymedia about the 2003 protests then but in the book explanations for the protests are rare – as is also suddenly the appearance of a refugee support demonstration when the topic hasn’t been mentioned before. However, for long-term politically active people, who know that kind of stuff already, the book is not empowering nor encouraging them in their struggle either as towards the end the protagonist becomes depressed and disillusioned with activism. Not once, but twice, and both times the questions are left open and there is no closure for the reader yet again. Out of this reasons I would find it difficult to review or recommend the book in more mainstream left-leaning or liberal publications and it might stop the book from becoming commercially successful.
So to summarise:
The book really made me want to smoke again. I regret not knowing what Wayne did at Gleneagles in 2005 and 2007 in Heiligendamm.
I found the book too (working)class obsessed to the point of distraction . Although in Britain, with the Queen and Thatcherism and all that, the class system is regarded as an important and sacrosanct issue. From my experience there will always be a class system; not necessarily about the accumulation of wealth but for example about the level of education available to individuals or even in political circles, for example about the level and practice of politicization and trust. I found it very enlightening when finding out that the children of university-educated professionals in the GDR were not allowed to study themselves in order to prevent an upper or even middle class system. However, there was still a political elite formed as it did not apply to the children of polit officals ranking more or less highly.
I found it a deeply unfair and unjust rule.
Also in the book, I missed the description of the local protests in Edinburgh during that time, like Foot and Mouth during Genoa in 2001 and of ‘ACE’ and similar. Personally, for me, Waynes character seems to have some gaps between Benny’s Burgers and sociology studies – I missed him getting empowered in a practical way at that time. He often seems too passive as if life was done to him rather than he actively living it.
Missed at the description of the Mayday 2000 protests is also the raid of the petrol station, the break-out of parliament square, the compost toilet and the attack on McDonalds and the conference the day before. Maybe that will be included in one of D.D.Johnston’s next books.
I did enjoying being on maternity leave a lot, and as baby has been so well-behaved even got the chance to read some books:
Sheila Kitzinger: “Understanding your Crying Baby” is a great book and educated me about some common misunderstandings and prejudices. For example, I did not know before I read this book, that the mothers of many of the babies, who cry most, like over 6 hours a day, also experienced a bad, stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth with lots of interventions and drugs and a patronising, autocratic hospital environment. Also interesting the fact that babies cry most at the 3rd week and in the 3rd month after birth and that some drugs take about a month to clear out of the babies system which leads to some babies changing behaviour dramatically afterwards.
In total there is so much about crying explained I have never thought of before so I would highly recommend this book. It talks about different mothering styles, the history of parenting and advice books and also gives lots of example stories and good ideas how to ease the (stress of) crying.
Other books I found really helpful are Deborah Jacksons: “Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with your Baby” from the P&P centres library. The NHS still advises that the baby sleeps in a seperate cot, but for us it did not work. Having our little one in bed helped me to get at least 10 hours sleep a night when I needed it most, and snuggling up with him in bed is the best thing ever anyways. The medical advice is that the baby sleeping in bed with the parents would increase the danger of cot death, but for example in Japan, where co-sleeping with the baby in the same bed is normal, there are hardly any unexplained cot deaths at all. Also when the baby was very ill I found I could monitor his condition much better when he was sleeping by my side. And he does hardly ever cry, which I attribute to being very close to me for the majority of the hours per day. As a baby knows it is very helpless it feels best when being close to mummy and daddy anyways, so naturally it feels so badly that it needs to be sleep close to the parents who will protect it from any danger. This is explained also in the book “The Continuum Concept” which blasts modern parenting concepts, like “Gina Ford’s crying it out” with the anger of an anthropologist researching natural birth and parenting styles with indigenous tribes.
There are lots of publications about birth rights from AIMS, the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services – at the P&P Centre to borrow, they have got a nice library there .
They have got special publications for cases like Breech Birth, Induction and so on, maybe more interesting in the later stages of pregnancy but hugely significant if you prefer a natural birth to a medicalised one. Especially the induction booklet is very good, because the due date can either often be miscalculated and also it is based on a research of only a few dozens birth about a century and a half ago.
Peter Buckley Hill and some Comedians XI
Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe
Before attending this crammed comedy event, i have never before realised the subtle different degrees and tastes of humour. Peter Buckley Hill warms up the audience with randomly chosen noises to welcome every guest comedian and also delivers some silly songs about Scotland’s national dish – the flying Haddock with Chips and Peas.
The first guest comedian from Gateshead pocked fun at the absurdities of his home town when it lost out to Liverpool in the “City of Culture” contest.
The second comedian totally and unexpectedly hit my taste with his wonderfully absurd, spontaneous and intelligent humour. I laughed till I cried.
Finishing off the comedy evening was the slightly deranged Barbara, who got us all praying to an alien god living in some orange sweets.
Canongait, 4 -25 Aug , 9:30 pm (11:35 pm), Free Non-ticketed, eff 82.
Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns Walking Tour
Saints and Sinners Walking Tour
This sightseeing tour leads up the Royal Mile, down the Mound and via the New Town and St. Andrews Square finishes up on the Bridges about two hours later. Four different guides offer this entertaining walk under the Saints and Sinners Banner; however, here the topic is more generalised into explaining also the negative side of Edinburgh; and not just the bright side. We are treated to a whole lot of facts and figures, historical dates and some illustrations, amusing tales and unusual stories. I liked the various changes of narrative; from factual – informative to the subjective first person tale to how the the tour participants would have coped with fashion in the Middle Ages.
Very enjoyable and informative.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 4 -26 Aug, times vary, £7.50 (£.6.00) (£4.00 C), eff 119.
Run Granny Run
Marlo Poras / USA / 2007 / 77 min
We all love underdogs (well at least here in Scotland), who fight the good fight. So Granny D. is straight up our road, with her 94 years and who is running in the election for senate against the hardcore conservative. At the same time, she is campaigning against funding from special interest groups,too, and walking through the US and her state in protest. The film is a light-hearted, for all audiences enjoyable documentary about people power.
The film has a good pace, is never boring and is nicely cut and edited. However, I feel the story is kind of superficially presented, when there could be so much more to say and tell. Granny D’s husband had Alzheimer’s, now her daughter has got it, but these circumstances are brushed over. Also we never really meet the grandchildren of Granny D. or get to know the original aims of her decision to stand for election against the unbeatable famous Republican.