Friday, May 31, 2013

What I read on my holidays....

Getting away from it all for a few days meant I had the time to read all the book club books I had outstanding, plus 7 more books on top of that. Here are some short reviews:

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

** spoiler alert ** Where to start with this? I found it hard going to start with, but got into it about 1/3 through. I didn't like Diary Amy, and always felt a large amount of sympathy for Nick, although he wasn't exactly likeable himself. I never thought he'd killed Amy, which means I wasn't surprised by the turn the book took when it became clear that she'd faked Diary Amy and her own death. I'm still not sure what the big twist was everyone talks about - the switch from Diary Amy to real Amy happens too soon in the book for it to be that, surely? And it was obvious she was going to kill Desi, she'd shown herself to be capable of anything by then. Her pregnancy announcement at the end was also not much of a surprise...

I thought the descriptions Nick gave of the affair with Andie were interesting, and gave a different perspective on him. Was that supposed to make us dislike him, I wonder? It really just made me feel sorry for him. Are we to assume Hannah, as mentioned in one of Amy's diary entries is made up, as Nick categorically states Andie was his only affair, or do we assume Nick is lying?

I was left hoping that Nick somehow managed to escape from Amy's clutches, the idea that their baby could solve what was desperately wrong with their relationship is just too horrible to contemplate. That poor poor child!

Kill Your FriendsKill Your Friends by John J. Niven
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

One of the most horrendous books I've ever had the misfortune to read. And he doesn't even get his comeuppance in the end, which is about the only thing that could have saved this book for me, though I doubt even that would have done it. Grim grim grim, revelling in the worst kind of racist, sexist awfulness. Someone will no doubt now tell me it's satire and I've missed the point but I don't care! Horrible.

The Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not sure how one reviews Shakespeare, but this is entertaining enough... A bit sexist though ;)

The Damned UtdThe Damned Utd by David Peace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely superb. A must-read for anyone with even the vaguest interest in football and with lots of bonus Huddersfield Town material to boot.

The Thief's JournalThe Thief's Journal by Jean Genet
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that this seems to jump about all over the place and doesn't really have a narrative as such, I did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of old Barcelona, which the author brings to life very well. I wish I could read it in the original language because I can't help feeling a few things were lost in translation with the version I was reading (which oddly has the footnotes interspliced at random points in the text.)

I warmed to the author greatly through reading the book, despite, or perhaps because of its haphazard nature. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book though, all things considered.

Where's Your Caravan?: My Life on Football's B-RoadsWhere's Your Caravan?: My Life on Football's B-Roads by Chris Hargreaves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a quick and easy read for anyone who is interested in football and has ever followed lower/non-league teams. I'd say it probably doesn't have a lot of general appeal beyond that though. It could have benefitted from a bit more editing, although I suppose leaving it more 'as is' gives it a more honest feel.

Confessions of a New York Taxi DriverConfessions of a New York Taxi Driver by Eugene Salomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is based on a blog called Cabs are for Kissing and is a beautifully written and sympathetically edited selection of vignettes from the author's time as a taxi driver in New York City. It made me laugh and cry in almost equal measure and was a delight to read from start to finish. Perfect.

KrabatKrabat by Otfried Preu├čler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this, kept me guessing to the end.

The Turn of the ScrewThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Funnily enough I didn't enjoy this as much as the book it inspired: Florence and Giles by John Harding.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Catford South Assembly, 6th June

The next Catford South ward assembly is being held on 6th June at St. Laurence Community Centre, which is on Bromley Road. If you live, work or study in the ward then this meeting is open to you and according to the leaflet which dropped through my door this morning will cover the following things:

An update on Conisborough College students' feasibility study on improving the area around Sandhurst Rd/Sangley Rd/Muirkirk Rd. Some of the Year 8 students will make a short presentation on their work so far.

An update from the Lewisham public health team, newly moved into Lewisham council, on work on health and wellbeing in Lewisham and (possibly) also an update on the Lewisham A&E situation.

Feedback on topics raised as priorities for the area at the last assembly will also be given, along with an update on how ward assembly funding is changing in 2013/14 and how to bid for funding for projects for the area (based on the 4 priority areas identified - streetscape and environment; activities for children and young people; antisocial behaviour and crime; roads, transport and parking.)

Contact Lucy Formolli, who is the Catford South Assembly officer at the council if you want more information. (email, telephone 020 8314 6314).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Impact of fire station closures in Lewisham and Greenwich

Boris Johnson plans to close fire stations in New Cross, Downham and Woolwich as part of budget cuts designed to save £29m over two years. Since the proposals were announced, the London Fire Brigade has published a document setting out the impact on response times of fire engines at ward level. The document is quite dense and contains a couple of enormous tables so I thought I would try to distil out some of the impacts on the boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich.

This News Shopper article pointed out the impact in 5 wards across the boroughs today, but I think it's worth looking across all wards to see the total effect. It's worth pointing out that a significant number of wards already have response times that fall outside the target time of 6 minutes for the first appliance. (I haven't looked at the second appliance times because I think that's confused by the fact that not all fires will need one.)

The four columns in the tables of response times for the first appliance below are:
2011/12 fires 
2011/12 all incidents 
Current Performance (3 Year Average) (minutes)
Post LSP5 Performance (minutes)

Bellingham                 57 177 06:29 06:55 
Blackheath                 37 189 04:48 04:54 
Brockley                   44 253 05:28 05:41 
Catford South              19  94 05:29 06:13 
Crofton Park               41 180 04:01 04:07 
Downham                    63 166 05:54 07:38
Evelyn                     49 343 04:32 04:37
Forest Hill                38 178 05:41 05:45 
Grove Park                 67 187 05:10 06:27 
Ladywell                   38 129 04:56 05:01  
Lee Green                  20 131 04:29 04:35
Lewisham Central           56 470 04:06 04:11
New Cross                  72 298 05:04 05:31
Perry Vale                 34 179 04:16 04:22 
Rushey Green               77 252 04:46 04:53
Sydenham                   44 206 06:14 06:21 
Telegraph Hill             44 206 05:15 07:24
Whitefoot                  73 191 05:08 07:57 

Abbey Wood                 91 220 06:24 06:28
Blackheath Westcombe       98 223 06:03 06:07 
Charlton                   37 138 05:45 05:55 
Coldharbour and New Eltham 35  96 06:16 06:19 
Eltham North               31 110 05:11 05:17 
Eltham South               50 142 04:51 04:56 
Eltham West                43 106 05:53 05:57
Glyndon                   116 255 05:17 05:23 
Greenwich                  51 317 04:24 04:28 
Kidbrooke with Hornfair    48 135 06:34 06:43 
Middle Park and Sutcliffe  41 155 05:07 05:11 
Peninsula                  67 306 05:20 05:27 
Plumstead                 101 214 04:48 04:54 
Shooters Hill              64 148 06:35 07:01
Thamesmead Moorings       120 256 07:07 07:13 
Woolwich Common            93 328 05:32 06:36 
Woolwich Riverside        112 452 04:57 07:26

(Source: Ward impacts of changes to fire stations and engines)

I've highlighted in red those wards that will be outside target response times following implementation of the London Fire Safety Plan 5. Those in italics are already outside target. So in Lewisham the number of wards outside target increases from 2 to 7 of 18 wards and in Greenwich the increase is from 6 to 8 of 17 wards. I'm no expert, but this doesn't look particularly safe or sensible to me, and not just because I happen to live in one of the affected wards.

Petitions against the cuts are available and I recommend you sign them:
General petition against the cuts
If anyone knows of a New-Cross-specific petition I'll add it!

You can also respond to the consultation here until 17 June.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Recent Reads: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody BonesThe Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It's hard to describe just how much I disliked this book. It's not that I dislike books with unreliable narrators, I've read plenty that I enjoyed, not least Florence and Giles by John Harding, but I found Tristan Hart one of the most unlikeable lead characters I've had the displeasure to encounter in a long time. The language of the book is tricky and a bit irritating at first, but you can get over that. It is simply that Tristan is a spoilt brat, if a genius, and it's this, not his mental illness, that makes him objectionable. And that's before we get onto the way he treats women!

View all my reviews

Recent Reads: The Lives and Loves of Hana Lee by KP Webster

The Lives and Loves of Hana LeeThe Lives and Loves of Hana Lee by KP Webster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this quite well in the end, despite having to skip through the last 20% at great speed in order to get it finished in time for malbec club (yes I was finishing it sitting at the table in Mr Lawrence's...)

The first two or three chapters set the story up nicely, and I think unfortunately the story itself didn't quite live up to its early promise. I found Gabby an irritating character, although clearly necessary to the story.

I also felt there were a few too many anti-men sentiments peppered throughout the text that didn't really add to the story, in fact they became quite jarring and irritating as the story went on.

It was easy to read, and quite a page turner - I liked the way the story flipped between past and present from chapter to chapter. I think my favourite parts of the book were the bits from the 1800s in Paris, I felt perhaps the author ran out of steam a bit by the time Hana got to Japan/America.

The sex is better written than 50 Shades of Grey...

View all my reviews