Hairy Maclary and friends visit Dundee

hairy-maclary-1024x768“Out of the gate and off for a walk went Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy….” is how my three year old girl’s favourite bedtime story begins. Hairy Maclary and his chums are hard not to love. Since we discovered the book a few years ago every dog we meet is categorised by a character from the book. Is that doggy more of a Bitzer Maloney (all skinny or bony) or a Hercules Morse (as big as a horse)? That Schnitzel von Krumm is my own personal fave!

The series of books are so filled with fun and frolics that they real are gorgeous to read. In fact so gorgeous that it’s fair to say that I also count myself as a bit of a fan!

So imagine our excitement when we found out that The Hairy Maclary and Friends Show is touring and coming to the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee, not far from us! Delighted!

For more details about the Dundee show on Wednesday the 14th of October or to find details about the other shows in the tour, visit: www.hairymaclaryshow.co.uk

Ten years on from the 27 club

27-e1445084328140I was 14 when the 27 club welcomed one of its most famous members. The story of Kurt Cobain and his spiral into despair held my attention much more than any Shakespearean play I was being taught as school. Grunge rock might never have been my thing, but Nirvana’s posters adorned the walls of all the boys I fancied, so it felt only right that I should take an interest. I went from being interested to compelled when I heard his suicide note being read out on the radio. As a teenager who had literary aspirations, the words: “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” had me hook, line and sinker. The tragedy, the mystery, the angst, it all just seemed so glamorous.

Of course it wasn’t just me that it took an interest, the whole world and his dog suddenly knew Kurt Cobain’s life story. Because that is what death does, it propels you into stardom, recreates your story into some new romanticized version. With the taint of death, every minor, minute details suddenly becomes important. Suddenly a sad face means depression, a hollow laugh becomes manic. People begin to project their own fears and failings on to someone else, who is not there to argue. As an impressionable teenager, I did just this. I identified with that lost look in Kurt’s eyes. He was misunderstood, just like me.

Twenty one years on and the world is still just as captivated with Kurt Cobain and his fellow 27 club members. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jeff Buckley and Amy Winehouse, continue to hold the public’s interest years after their death, and their lives continue to be the subject of speculation fuelled by news articles, documentaries and social media. And as much as the stories of their lives still intrigue me, I just can’t help but wonder if our morbid curiosity is really healthy. Shouldn’t we be looking to the living for our answers, not the dead?

Of course it’s not just the music world that has a tendency to lose its members to tragedy. From writers like Sylvia Plath to artists like Vincent Van Gogh, the world of art seems to be full of heart breaking stories of untimely ends. Perhaps it’s because we feel things too deeply to create the things that we do. Whatever the reason, over the years I’ve begun to realise that as much as we’d like to really understand the plight of others, we can only ever really know our own.

As I approach my own 37th year, a whole ten years past the strict membership requirements of Kurt’s exclusive club, I can’t help but realise what a gift life is. The ordinariness of the day to day grind, might not be glamorous, but the hope that each day brings will always be worth more than never knowing how your life was supposed to turn out. So as much as I still identify with that lost look in Kurt’s eye or that husk of hurt in Amy’s throat, I’ll happily choose fading away.

Image: “27” by Shota Mitsuyasu

My Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

her-fearful-symmetryyou’ve read (and loved) Audrey Niffenegger’s first fantastic novel, The Time Traveller’s Wife, you’ll have been as anxious as I was about her follow up novel Her Fearful Symmetry. It’s a book I both yearned for and dreaded. How could it compare with The Time Traveller’s Wife, one of my all time favourite novels? I was scared to find out.

Unlike The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry is not a love story. In fact it’s quite the opposite, it’s a dark haunting ghost story set in London. The book centres around identical teenage twins Julia and Valentina who find out that the aunt they never knew existed, has died and left them a flat in London overlooking Highgate Cemetery. They travel away from their American home for the first time to begin their new life in England. There they meet their new neighbours Martin, the obsessive compulsive and Robert their aunt’s elusive lover, and they begin to piece together the life of their mysterious aunt Elspeth.

But their fresh start is overshadowed by a ghostly presence in their new home. Their aunt Elspeth, who so desperately wanted to know the twins when she was alive, finally has the opportunity to spend time with her long lost nieces. And now that she’s finally found them, she’s doesn’t want to let them go.

Her Fearful Symmetry is an eerie novel which examines the strange relationship the twins share and looks at the secrets that we keep from the ones we love the most. The book might not please all fans of The Time Travellers Wife, but this delicious and deadly tale will definitely have you turning the pages. Perfect for a cosy autumnal night in.

If you enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry, why not try one these?

Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier

This timeless classic tells the story of the new Mrs de Winter who is living in the constant shadow of her husband’s dead wife, Rebecca. This haunting tale sees a young girls struggle to find her own identity in her new home, the gothic Manderley, where the memory of Rebecca never dies.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is the story of reclusive author Vida Winter. Now an old lady, she calls on a young biographer to reveal the truth about her life. What follows is a spellbinding tale about the beautiful and wilful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Dearest Daphne

As we approach the 26th anniversary of your death, I felt compelled to write you this letter. To put it frankly Daphne, I am a huge fan of your work. In my modest and very humble opinion, you totally rock.

Daphne-e1445084606259After years and years of hearing how marvelous Rebecca was, I finally got round to reading it about ten years ago. They were quite right Daphne, it really is fantastic. I was completely mesmerized with your descriptions of Manderley and your villainous Rebecca. I was busy booing Mrs Danvers and rooting for your pretty protagonist without a name. Very well done indeed. What I didn’t expect was to find out that this isn’t your best work. Not in my eyes, not by a blinking long shot.

The second book I read was Jamaica Inn, amazing Daphne, that’s the only word to describe it. It had me up half the night, because I just couldn’t put it down. The twist with the Vicar – Never Saw It Coming, very well played. And your descriptions of the “filthy night” just excellent, I adopted the phrase immediately – I hope you don’t mind.

After I’d devoured Jamaica Inn, I started reading your short story collection “Don’t look now and other stories”. Now I’ve watched that movie and to be honest with you, I didn’t think much of it. I just couldn’t get past all those dated 1970s sex scenes. But your story was something different entirely. So sinister and eerie that it lingers with me still. In fact every story in the collection is a triumph, so gripping and unputdownable (a terrible phrase, I do apologise). Seriously Daphne, hats off to you.

But the thing I like most about you Daphne, is your ability to shock. Let’s talk about ‘The Doll’. It’s wild Daphne, creepy, macabre and so very bold. Did you really write a story about a sex doll when you were only 20 years old? Was the year really 1920? You are fierce Daphne Du Maurier.

And that’s why I’m writing this letter to you. I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the legacy of work to left behind for me to read and enjoy. Thank you for keeping me up all night glued to your books. And most of all thank you for teaching me how to be the best writer I can be. Now that I’ve read your work, I realise that to be truly great, you’ve got to be completely fearless.

Daphne Du Maurier, I salute you.

Kindest regards

Your biggest fan

Pippi Longstocking Saves Bedtime

pippiI thought I had pretty much covered all the children’s classics in my youth. The Wind in The Willows, The Worst Witch, all the Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton books known to man, I read them all. So just how I managed to escape Pippi Longstocking and her crazy antics, I’ll never know. I’d never even heard of her until I spotted her recently, peeking out at me on the shelf of a second hand shop, pleading me to buy her!

So imagine my delight when I find out that she’s the perfect role model for my six year old girl. Forget Princesses waiting to be rescued, Pippi Longstocking is feisty, fierce and funny. She has my girl properly squawking with laughter, which may not be exactly ideal right before bedtime, but it’s still very lovely all the same.

But I mean who could resist a giggle at a Pippi – a girl who defiantly walks backwards, sleeps upside down (with her head underneath the duvet) and who wears shoes that are five sizes too big.

My girl is falling in love with the glorious Swede, and it’s not just her, I’m pretty smitten too! Pippi is making bedtimes fun again, she’s transporting me back in time to my old bedroom 25 years ago, when I would stay up reading, way past my bedtime, with the help of my Carebears torch. She’s helping me remember just how magical reading can be.

So if you’re looking for a bedtime story for your little girl (or little boy for that matter), don’t settle for a pretty princess, opt for the peculiar Pippi Longstocking instead. I promise, you’ll be very glad that you did.

You can buy a copy of Pippi Longstocking here.