Friday, 28 March 2008

Diagram Result

On a lighter note than yesterday, the winner of this year's Diagram prize for the year's oddest title has been announced, and it's the one that was my favourite: 'If You Want Closure in your Relationship, Start With Your Legs' - a title that does the job so well you don't actually need to read the book. Scroll down to my previous posts (on 7 March and 3 December) about the Diagram Prize for the rest of the shortlist and see if you agree with the choice of winner.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Quo Vadis?

I know I've not been posting as much as I'd like and I daresay the tone recently could be lighter - I hope next week to return to normal service. Suffice to say that I came back last night from a brief visit to Scotland to attend my aunt's funeral. I actually feel worse today than I did during the visit, because the trip had involved serious logistical problems, so my mind was kept occupied. Plus the weather was so cold I could scarcely feel my heart: it was frozen along with my fingers, toes, spine and mind. There's a cemetery up there where I've stood and shivered altogether too many times, where spiritual platitudes are uttered to the faithful for whom they are a comfort - but all I feel is that if I have such a thing as a soul, it's gone into shutdown and it can't be reached.

My aunt was, as the minister said, 'a woman of faith', so I hope she is now where her faith told her she would be and that she is with those she loved and lost and who were also of faith.

I think that's a pasture I won't be allowed to graze.

There's every chance tomorrow that I will remove this self-indulgent post. Bear with me in the meantime.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Lest We Forget

Last week I was impressed to hear that Terry Pratchett, a recent diagnosee, was donating half a million pounds to research into finding a cure for Alzheimer's and I was horrified to hear that as many people suffer from it as from cancer but it gets about 3% of the funding. This is an atrocious state of affairs. I've talked about this disease before and about how it terrifies me witless (and may well do in the future). Endlessly we're subject to dire health warnings about what we eat and how much we exercise and how to avoid the horsemen of the apocalypse: cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart attack. And yes, they're all scary, but at least when you die of them you're still you. With Alzheimer's you're not.

Terry Pratchett is going to go on writing as long as he can, even though his abilitiy to touch type has already gone. I admire the spirit he shows. With typical bloody-minded feistiness he calls the disease 'an embuggerance'.

I wanted to mention this last week but didn't get round to it. But I have reason to today. My beloved Aunt Isa, with whom my sister and I lived in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of our parents when we were children, who was strong and pious and fun to be with, who was good of heart and sharp of brain, died this morning, suddenly, of a heart attack. But death had already taken pretty much all that she had, because for a number of years, Alzheimer's, which I will call in Chaucer's words, the 'secree theef', had stolen away the sharpness, and the sense of who she was, who anyone was. It's the kind of situation where when death comes, you find yourself, to your horror, about to use the phrase 'blessed relief'.

But it isn't. There's nothing blessed in it, and for the life of me I can't see how people can maintain belief in a kindly deity when the deserving and the devout have such treatment meted out to them. I'm told that she looked peaceful. There you go.

So I feel grief and loss and anger - and at the moment it's the latter that holds sway, futile though it is.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Diagram Time Again!

Time for some fun. Yes, it's Diagram prize time again: a couple of weeks ago The Bookseller announced the shortlist for this year's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. If you go to my post of 15 April last year, you can see last year's list and my comments on it. (It was won by Stray Shopping Carts of America, a Field Guide - but should I think have gone to How Green Were the Nazis).

Anyway, here's the list: see what you think, and if you want to vote, go to

I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen

How to Write a How to Write Book

Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

Cheese Problems Solved

People Who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs

It's a tough choice, though my favourite is the last one, which I noticed in the early stages of the nominations. However, I do wish one of the ones that missed the shortlist had made it: Drawing and Painting the Undead ... One starts imagining chapter titles and topics covered: Mixing Cadaver Tints with special recommendations for Rotting Flesh Tones? Make your Ectoplasm come to Life? What to do when the Sitter is just too Still? Conveying Propped Postures and Shambling Gaits: a Checklist. Guidelines in the Event your Sitter turns on you. The Artist as Seancer: creating a Model Dialogue with the Dead. Morbid Fascination: A Survey of Art's Fascination with the Corpse.

All right, all right, I'll stop now. It's not as though I have nothing better to do. I have a book to write, you know.