Thursday, 3 February 2011

Books, A Film, A Bistro, An iPad And Football = A Perfect Day

Yesterday was one of those days that retirement is all about. We started out at the wonderful Liverpool One branch of Waterstones where there's a great little cafe and a fantastic selection of books. We went for Joe Abercrombie's signing of his new novel The Heroes (a gift for our daughter's partner Duncan). Neither of us know anything about Joe's work and we didn't savour the embarrassment of letting on to him that we weren't fans as everyone else in the queue clearly was and he was happily interacting with his readers as he signed. Marion drew the short straw and came clean and he was charmingly honest in his response - " A sales a sale".He came across as a very pleasant young man and if I could ever get into fantasy I would certainly give him a try.

I mentioned that I was reading Never Let Me Go the other day and I'm so pleased that I finished it before the release of the film which is now imminent. I was disappointed to hear Mark Lawson reveal most of the story in a thirty second introduction to an interview with Keira Knightley on Radio 4's Front Row last night as the beauty of the book is the way that the plot is drip fed to the reader until the truth of what it's all about finally sinks in. It's like a jigsaw puzzle in a plain box and every now and then Ishiguro throws the reader a piece. Like the excellent Nocturnes, the book is a superb example of never using four syllables when two will do as Ishiguro is an author whose writing is pared to the bone with short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters in which every word counts. Narrated by 31 year old carer Kathy, the novel reveals her childhood at Hailsham, a rambling old building in the English countryside, the friends she makes there and their lives as young adults. But what is Hailsham? An orphanage? A Boarding School? An asylum? I won't reveal more but this is a chilling tale and a book that I urge you to read.

From Waterstones yesterday it was a short journey to the Apple store. Marion needed a laptop computer as I'm always hogging the Mac and she doesn't want to be stuck in the office upstairs. We decided that an iPad with a keyboard dock would be ideal for what she needs so that's something to play with later.

We had lunch at Bistro Franc in Hardman St. It's part of a small chain of restaurants and you can't really go wrong with their three course lunch at under £9. It's cheap and cheerful with good and friendly service, a busy atmosphere (hardly unexpected at that price) and reasonable food. The portions are understandably small in comparison to many places but they were fine for us as we often find ourselves over-faced. I'm not recommending it as a fine dining experience but for a decent lunch at a remarkable price you won't find a better deal.

This is how to do cinema in style. The intimate Box screen at Liverpool's FACT which is fitted out with twenty five or so twin seater sofas. We went to see Blue Valentine. Marion mentioned that we were going to one of the women on the make up counter in John Lewis and she looked at me and said "aren't you romantic". Clearly she hadn't read the reviews as this is a film about the death of a romance. It shows the beautiful blossoming of the same romance in flashback but the centrepiece of the film is Ryan Gosling's attempt to salvage a marriage on the rocks through the dubious route of a night in a seedy couples only motel. Apart from the choice of the tacky motel with its themed rooms (Cupids etc) which I thought any sane man would know would guarantee the ending of the marriage rather than a revival, the film is a superb and highly believable examination of a failing relationship. The acting from Gosling as Dean and Michelle Williams as Cindy is outstanding. They are on screen for most of the film and they create a wonderful and poignant portrayal of what it's like to fall in and out of love. Five stars from me and Marion (who wept throughout the credits)

And finally there I was back in Row 65 seat 42 on the kop at Anfield after the absence enforced by the hip. If you've been reading this blog you will know that I have not exactly been enamoured with Liverpool FC or the fans for some time but after forty five years it's a hard habit to kick. And, after all, there's a whole new regime in place and I don't feel too badly about the way that Roy Hodgson was treated now that I know that he has been handsomely compensated. It's interesting to see that Kenny Dalglish has not shirked controversy in buying two players with considerable form in more ways than one but when you consider the off field exploits of Best, Marradona, Gascoigne, Bellamy and Rooney perhaps the nose biting Suarez and the bad boy Carroll are merely exhibiting traits that are part and parcel of being a successful forward. Judging from Suarez' brief cameo last night (that was an own goal by the way), he looks like an interesting addition to the squad. After watching a dire first half hour in which we played without a recognised striker it was obvious that without players like Suarez and Torres Liverpool are extremely lacking in flair. The match at Stamford Bridge on Sunday will be extremely interesting. Damn. I just remembered we are going to a wedding.

Here's that Suarez goal. He didn't hit the ball hard enough and if the Stoke defender had done his job properly he might not be getting the headlines that we've seen today.