Another consumed

The Edible Woman
Margaret Atwood

This specific work I was particularly interested in sinking into, as Ms Atwood’s Blind Assassin has sat comfortably in my top three favourite reads of all time, (No.1 – The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell; No.2 – London Fields, Martin Amis), since I had the pleasure of pawing through it, approximately 12 years ago.

Narrated by Marian, I found myself instantly trusting of her. She comes across as honest, stable and ordinary. Though, these three abstract nouns were all put to the test as the narration unfolds.

I shan’t provide you with an English degree standard critique of the tale as I can’t, though I shall say:-

I delighted in her relationships with others, such as the three office virgins; her pregnant (then not pregnant, as she has the baby during the tale) friend from college, Clara and husband Joe; her unusual attraction to Duncan; her ability to live with Ainsley; Duncan’s parents Trevor and Fischer; the lady down below and the child; Len, especially at the end – for seeking such pleasure with Arthur’s toys; and her dissatisfying (at least in my opinion), partnership with Peter.

Knowing prior to consuming, that it had been written in the mid-60s– as I did something that doesn’t come naturally – read the Introduction.  I was really surprised by the freedom, especially from parental control, both Ainsley and Marian experienced and enjoyed. I know they were both in their mid-20s and lived away from home, though I still found it something I was completely unfamiliar with. (Note to self: my thoughts were based purely on the evidence of one – my mother – so possibly put my sheltered amazement aside.)

As the tale progresses, I found myself a little unsure of the message -I guess this is because I can only manage to read stories on one level – though it was only momentary, especially as I came back to appreciating it with appetite, as the day of Peter’s party unfolds and he becomes increasingly more irritating (and unattractive), with his desire to take the best photographs and present the perfect image to his colleagues and himself.

From this point on, I couldn’t put it down as I was desperate to discover – what happened, so you’ll need to find out too.

Finally, though I’ve only read a few of Margaret Atwood’s other works:

  • Alias Grace 1996
  • Moral Disorder 2006
  • And the abovementioned Blind Assassin

I am confident in my thoughts towards her.

  • She is generously talented
  • Her characters are an absolute joy to meet (even if you don’t wish to pursue a relationship with them)
  • She writes impressively in a variety of forms and never fails to produce something that is really worth reading. I’m envious

And if by chance you are reading this Ms Atwood, please come and do a book signing in Oxford.

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Edamame

15 Holywell Street, Oxford
OX1 3SA

I could rave about this place for over four years, though I’ll keep it trim and only provide the lean cut.

In one sentence:
Head here for wonderfully authenticate Japanese food.

Though I’d like to add a tiny bit more:
You can’t book, which makes it even more exciting, for as the queue grows outside you feel fabulously assured that you made the perfect decision for your evening’s dining. Then it’s sitting time – there are approximately six tables, some big, some small, so depending on the numbers in your party, you may end up sharing (which is great for material) or not (then spend the rest of your time, pretending to contribute 100% to your companion/s, whilst surreptitiously working hard to overhear the other diners).

The food – delicious, incredibly delicious and great value

The staff – polite, quick and smiley

The atmosphere – relaxed, with the additional bonus of lots of real Japanese people dining here, which obviously speaks bucket loads.

Opening times – Wednesday through to Sunday for lunch and Thursday to Saturday for dinner. With the added bonus of ‘Sushi Night’ Thursday.

Make yourself and your tummy very happy – visit and consume.

Last moments in Tokyo

I’m really sorry for my tardiness, I didn’t mean to do it, I just didn’t know where to start.

Though I’m not a Spice Girl and possibly, if memory serves me correct, never really aspired to be one.  I found myself deliberately mimicking one, my last evening in Tokyo.

No…Yes…No…OK I’m comfortable with it.

Picture it.  . Singing, or maybe squealing out Wannabee, whilst hosting a pair of black hot pants (OK, nobody knew me), being supported by some, more than capable back-up singers, knowing that you are 28 minutes into your 30 minute allocation of your, very own karaoke box (visit Big Echo for a treat) with great friends (read, predominantly family). You feel invincible.  You have approx. 13 hours left in this country that you’d don’t wish to vacate. You’ve had a terrific meal.  Maybe, one more Sakura cocktail then conservative behaviour would recommend.  Obviously, this evening was pretty difficult to surpass.

So difficult in fact, I’ve found it incredibly challenging to return to my normal world.  Chiefly, as the feedback from my son regarding my singing was really positive.  Especially, as I’m commonly referred to as ‘Tone Deaf’.  Thus, it has taken over two weeks to write this unforgettable experience up.

Japan – I love you. What a super place to spend some time, even your whole life – though unfortunately, I’m not in the position to say.   Your people are so considerate, easy-going, polite and kind. Your adoption of thoughtful messages on your subway wouldn’t go amiss anywhere. Your plastic food displays for foreign speakers – thank you. Your temples – breath-taking. Your hot Saké – my husband is eternally grateful.

Your crazy, creature play toys appropriate for all ages – like Big Teeth Brown Bodied Furry Creation, his mate the Blue Alien or even Sweet Guinea Pig Beastie . I NEED IT! I love how Hello Kitty and Miffy are still really important and it’s OK that I’m almost 40, though it’s acceptable to accessorise with this stuff and not be credited as bonkers.

Thank you Japan for introducing me to the simple pleasure of chadō; enabling me to walk through my first bamboo forest; highlighting that giving something to someone with two hands is alot more respectful and even feels better than my usual one handed hand-over;  for being really well stocked with top shelf, small-sized museums (top picks for Tokyo- Idemitsu Museum of Art, Fukagawa Edo Museum, ADMT – Advertising Museum and the GA Gallery – for Architecture; And the Fureaikan – Museum of Traditional Crafts in Kyoto); temples (in Kyoto head to – The Temple of Ghi-ohji, Ginkaku-ji {alternatively known as the Temple of the Silver Pavilion} also home to some pretty impressive moss) and gardens (visit the Kiyosumi Gardens in Tokyo to admire the massive and beautiful carp and the aforementioned Bamboo Grove, next to the Tenryu Temple in the Sagano district of Kyoto).

Additionally, your public transport receives special mention thumbs up.  For not only are the subway + metro +JR lines in Tokyo, impressively integrated.  They aren’t too tricky for one, with no Japanese in them, to embrace and utilise.

Ahh, and the Shinkansen (Bullet Train)…though pricey – worth the splurge. It’s a super-efficient and an extremely fast way to get across Japan – so you can enjoy as much of her as possible.

I had such a fantastic experience and can’t wait to turn 40 again, so I can go back and celebrate.

Top Tip

I couldn’t believe my eyes as my excitement levels shifted into 5th, at approximately 3.45pm, last Tuesday afternoon.

Please take my advice, head to Caffe Nero, at Blackwell’s, 48-51 Broad Street Oxford and it’s not just to indulge in refreshment or treats, rather it’s to admire and feel part of the clever appearing people.

They were there and not in less than significant numbers either, for they were out in force.

Pretty much every table was occupied by either a single occupant, a double or triple, either engaged in an enlightened conversation or busily scribbling down notes.

It felt good, actually it felt great. I’d stumbled across this little secret, where I can easily soak in the atmosphere, stay as long as I desire, pray that my fellow patrons speak louder, potentially pick up a little material and consume Hot Chocolate.

Try it out, it’s so worth the trip.

THE ODYSSEY – Creation and The Factory

You know when you were a little less in years and people would joke about young and impressionable types running off to join the circus…well I was really contemplating running of with this particular theatre group, four minutes post show completion, late-ish last Saturday evening.

They are good, very good and have continued to impress. Remember, they’re the same group whom staged Hamlet (enjoyed 17 March), I was eagerly anticipating.

Well, back to this performance.
Not only can they convincingly portray a tale; sound and sing exquisitely (Mr James Oxley, you deserve special mention here); use simple stage props super effectively; include the audience without embarrassing, rather encouraging and enthusing the volunteer; and superbly manage any scene thrown at them. They succeed in doing so, with obvious relish.

Concisely, the poem/play is broken down into 24 scenes and the telling or structure of such is very much dependent on what is written on the next shard selected. …’But I don’t get it…Can you explain yourself a little better?’

OK, the ‘stage direction’ of each scene/book has been written down on 24 separate pieces of shard and housed in an easy-to-pass-around-the-audience clay pot.  A shard is selected, the ‘stage direction’ is read out and the portrayal commences, then end of scene, the pot moves to the next member of the audience and the process is repeated.

Incredibly this approach in no way hinders the telling of the tale or leads to long delays, for the performance swiftly and smoothly takes its direction and continues to bewitch its audience.

Additionally, one of the 24 scenes is delivered in Ancient Greek, how impressive is that!

Oh and the singing. It is so beautiful and perfectly suited to its inclusion within the tale and though there were many times I felt this is it, this is the best – the final piece, in the final scene is without equal. I was absorbed by its simplicity and beauty.

Go and embrace the experience – it’s original, engaging and a wonderful treat.

So that’s what she’s been reading

Nemesis
Philip Roth

Book Club can clearly take the credit for introducing me to this particular tome.  And though I didn’t get it on more than one level, yes apparently I’d missed the super obvious references and parallels to Oedipus, this in no way impeded my appreciation and enjoyment of the tale.

Briefly, it focuses on a small neighbourhood in New Jersey in the year 1944. So, post America’s involvement in the Second World War and slap bang in the beginning of their summer.  It details, amongst many other things, the very real and horrid terror of Polio. A rapid, ferocious and at times, deadly disease I had no prior knowledge of (aside from having a spoonful of medicine at some stage when I was young and taking my son for his recommended jabs).

Bucky’s the character you follow throughout. He’s incredibly likable and though serious, is immensely dedicated, not just to the children he supervisors, but also to his grandmother; the memory of his grandfather; his girlfriend; her family; and his community at large. Further too, he’s clean living, patriotic and is determined to do what’s right, regardless of its personal cost to himself.

I just thought the clean living bit might put you off, though don’t let it, rather focus on his determination to do what’s right, for his internal struggles make it really worth pursuing.

For instance, I found myself questioning his actions, especially as you enter the second half of the book, attempting to place myself in his position and thinking how would I have handled the situation, would I have chosen to do as Bucky did, or would I have done it differently.  The answers took some fierce internal deliberation time.

I’d recommend you to read it. it’s quick, you won’t struggle with the text and it’s a great introduction to a different time, a different place, different values and an abhorrent virus.

Finally, thank you Dr (or Mr) Salk and Dr (or Mr) Sabin, for sorting out a vaccine against this hideous disease and watch out Mr Roth, for I’m very interested in reading more.

Adventure always

3 April 2012

Hello….I’m currently broadcasting from Kyoto, post a pretty epic adventure.

Yes, happily one catfish imminently facing her 40th birthday, finds herself in a land jam packed with extremely helpful locals, copious amounts of tasty food – three days into her first adventure of Japan.  We have just returned from a restaurant situated along an impressive stretch of adolescent cherry blossoms, doing their thing for the cherry blossom festival.

The flavours are great, the service is great, the atmosphere is great, the country is great, our tour organisers and guides are great (WALK JAPAN). It couldn’t have panned out better.

Amidst the daily pleasure of selecting one’s noodle (soba or udon), I’m constantly reminded that this place is so easy and enjoyable.  Just put your complete faith in the power of plastic food, for all you need to do is identify which item most resembles what you’d like to dine on – there tends to be stand of such outside each restaurant/cafe – and bingo you get the exact replica, only edible and super delicious.

4 April 2012 – Still happily residing in Kyoto

Unfortunately I did find myself last night waking, suffering from a pump action hangover furnished by one SPY wine cooler (which was funny at the time) and half a glass of Saki. Thankfully, the desire to sleep overrode the desire to stay awake experiencing dehydration, so I found myself this morning ready for action.

Embarrassingly, I must admit I can’t speak a word of Japanese, though surprisingly this hasn’t hampered my ability to explore or receive any opportunity I fancy….so the pace has been fast and will remain so, as we have only seven days in the country and we need to experience as much as we can….

Sorry, I’ve just been distracted by a giggling young chap, experimenting with the exciting water massage features the Loos here offer….

Back to the trip – the highlights have been high and so in no set order, I’ll briefly list a handful and then elaborate upon, upon my return home.

  • Chado – tea ceremony with Jack, the Tea Master
  • The Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavillon) and Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavillon) temples
  • The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts – Fureaikan
  • The Nijo Castle
  • Arashiyama, for a top bowl of Soba (and maybe some beer and saki)
  • Eating more delicious Green Tea ice cream than probably I should have
  • And have just completed a recreation of our own, of a typical Japanese meal of sashimi, sushi, a bottle of Californian chardonnay (how did that sneak in?), supported by hotel robes and pillows on the floor.

And that’s just a taste of what we have done in Kyoto.  I’ll need to leave Tokyo for a future update.

Prior to my departure…sorry if you are waiting for some top tips on actual places, for it will come…I’m limited presently however, by my need to satisfy my usual 8.5 hours of sleep and opportunity overload.  Rest assured, I shan’t stay quiet, so please prepare yourself.