Jeana’s top books


Here are a list of some of my favourite books.  They weren’t all published in 2006 and there are one or two which just should be read because they are brilliant.  So here goes in no particular order.   I’m going to start with two gardening books, partly because I spend half my life reading them and because the first part of 2006 was spent analysing them in great depth.

RHS Encylopedia of Gardening by Christopher Brickell

A great all-rounder book for anyone interested in gardening.  It will give you information on every aspect of anything you want to know horticulturally.

The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

Mark bought me this last year for my Christmas.  I’ve always been a Jeff Hamilton and Alan Titchmarsh fan, but I really like this.

Unfortunately, I find it really difficult watching and particularly listening to Monty on the TV, but this is a great book. It’s all about organic gardening so you’ll pasrticularly enjoy it if you’re into that kind of thing.  Personally, I have no problem throwing some slug pellets down to stop my Hostas being eaten.  This is a great read, and you do actually read it; not just look at the pictures.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

A superb book that everyone should read.  I don’t care when it was published.

Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen

Every year when the kids were younger I always liked to buy them a book about Christmas.  I bought this for my nephew Denny this year.  I had forgotten how good it was and how funny it is. 

Panic by Jeff Abbot

Very fast paced, easy to read thriller. 

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

You’ll get the analysis from Mark.  I read it on my holiday’s in Portugal and couldn’t put it down.  What more do you need from a book? (More lessy bits. Ed.)

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

Very good dark thriller.

The Emperor Series by Conn Iggulden

Excellent.  Not good if you want an exact historic account.  I discovered all sorts about Roman history and thoroughly enjoyed the read.

   

  

My favourite books of 2006


This is a pleasure.  I have read so many good books in 2006 I can hardly think where to begin.  Of course book reading is very personal (more so than movies and music I think) so all I offer here is my own taste.  As it happens Jeana has read considerably more books this year than in the recent past and I will be focing her to publish her innermost thoughts in due course.

I suppose one must divide them into those published in 2006 and those read in 2006. So I’ll start with the former.

My favourite books published in 2006 (ish)

Derren Brown. Tricks of The Mind

An absolute belter.  This is a really outstanding book and my personal book of the year.   It’s a text book (and a truly valuable one at that) come comedy autobiography.  I can’t find words to describe how good it is.

Irvine Welsh. The Bedroom Secrets of the Masterchefs

He’s a sick masogynist trying to find his way into the female character as a writer.  I wouldn’t urge my kids to read this (although Amy read, and loved, his masterpiece, Trainspotting, on holiday in Portugal this year).

He doesn’t succeed in his attempt to write about sympathetic female characters in this attempt.  It’s too long.  It’s preposterous.  It’s not as good as the aforementioned Trainspotting (or Porno) but..it’s actually pretty funny.  I rattled through it and still enjoyed it; for all its weaknesses.

Black Swan Green.  David Mitchell.

Were you ever a 13 year old (boy ideally) that wasn’t the coolest kid in town?  If you were; read this.  At one point it was favourite for The Booker Prize which was just plain silly really.  But it is a fantastic (light) read and completely different from Cloud Atlas which I think is a seriously good book.  This is the best young writer in Britain just now (that I have read) – with the possible exceptions of Ali Smith, Michel Faber and Alan Warner.

Saturday. Ian McEwan

Ah, the passed over masterpiece.  Ian McEwan has NEVER written a bad book.  This is another classic.  I went to the book reading of this with Vic and her Bro.  Great day out and great book spoiled by Catherine Lockerbie’s fawning and obnoxious MCship.  Anyway the book is a hugely dramatic 24 hours in the life of a brain surgeon and his family.  Read it.  It’s not brain surgery!

Heartfelt.  Sipping Bovril from the Devil’s cup.  Aiden Smith

What a hoot.  Hibby goes behind the scenes at Jambo Meltdown HQ before the Lithuanians properly arrived.  Hilarious.

Explorers of The Lost Century.  Magnus Mills.

His most disappointing yet.  But still a cut above the average.  (Start with The Scheme for Full Employment)

 The City of Falling Angels. John Berendt.

A book about Venice by a lover of Venice.  He takes the piss from start to finish, slags off EVERYONE in town and is now heartily detested by Venicians everwhere.  Brilliantly exposes the snobbery and corruption that underpins the machinations of one of my favourite cities.  If you’ve been to Venice you MUST read this book.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.  Marina Lewycka

Probably the publishing world’sa slow burner of 2006 and rightly so.  It’s hilarious.  Black, pretty sick really as it’s about the psychological undermining of an 80 year old Ukranian Tractor designer by his (Ukranian) 30-0dd slapper wife and gold seeker (only there isn’t any gold to seek) .  How the family unites against her is choc-a-bloc with hilarious moments.  (Jeana hated it.  She thought it was cruel.  BUT THAT IS THE POINT).

Stuart, A life Backwards. Alexander Masters

Aaaah.  What a wonderful book.  2006(ish)’s Curious Incident…  A very funny, but sad biography (backwards) of a seriously mentally ill young homeless, alcoholic, drug addict.  Laugh or cry you’ll love it for both.

Favourite books I read this year NOT published in 2006

The People’s Act of Love.  James Meek.

I’ve written elsewhere about this book.  Suffice it to say it was my non- 2006 published book of the year and probably pipped Derren for the overall crown.

What a Carve up. Jonathon Coe

I’ve read a lot of funny books this year, which is not like me.  This is the funniest.  A vicious satire on Thatcher’s Britain.  Brilliant plot that twists and turns like the Labour Party denying that this is a book about them.  If he wrote it today it most certainly would be.

The Accidental. Ali Smith

Is it as good as hotel world?  Maybe not; but it is immense.  She has a penchant for overelaoration stylistically but that doesn’t put me off one jot.  Keep ’em coming Ali.

The Proteus Effect – Stem Cells and their Promise for medicine. Ann B Parson

My Brother in law gave me this.  It’s a popular science book about Stem Cell research history and I really enjoyed it.  It is unlikely to ever say  ‘Number One Bestseller’ on any reprint though.

Primary Colors.  Anonymous

Read this on holiday.  Perfect. More political satire.  US-style.  Not a patch on Jonathon Coe but still a great book.

Fingersmith.  Sarah Waters

A Lesser romp to finish with.  Lovely Jubbly.  Bit light on the lesser stuff though.  Need to move on to Tipping the Velvert for that.  Which I shall.

Films of the year


This is the most democratic yet.  We ran a family poll.

 Jeana’s vote is                                Mark’s vote is

1. The Departed                                 1 The Departed

2.An Inconvenient Truth                  2  Red Road

3 Good Night and Good Luck           3 An Inconvenient Truth

4  Devil Wears Prada                        4 Good Night/Good Luck

5  Little Miss Sunshine                      5  Syriana

6  Casino Royale                                6  United 93

7  Syriana                                            7  Breaking and Entering

8  Breaking and Entering                  8  Casino Royale

9  King Kong                                        9 Borat

10  Walk The line                               10  Little Miss Sunshine

Tom’s                            Ria’s                    Amy’s

1Casino R                       1 Casino R           1 An Inconvenient Truth

2 Date Movie                2 King Kong         2 Jackass 2

3 Walk the Line            3  Walk The line  3 Devil Wears Prada

4 King Kong                  4  Cars                     (The rest were crap)

5 Slither                         5  Over The Hedge

6 High School Musical 6 An Inconvenient truth

7 Cars                            7  Devil Wears Prada

8 Open season              8 She’s the man

9 Step up                       9 High School Musical

10 Scary Movie 2          10 Open season

So the Gorman Top 5 Films of 2006 are…..

1     An Inconvenient Truth

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2     Casino Royale

3     The Departed

4    Walk The Line

5   Devil wears Prada

My favourite albums of 2006


I found that compiling this list was a slightly disappointing experience (despite several of the albums on my list being very good indeed) because some of my favourites this year were released last year (e.g. Isabel Campbell/Mark Lanegan and Richard Hawley – who takes the title for ‘gig of the year’ and, had his Coles Corner album been released on 1 Jan 2006, Album of the year – he certainly should have won the Mercury Prize, even the ‘so what’ Arctic Monkeys admitted as much; to their credit).

 (That was a terrrible sentence, wasn’t it?)

Anyway, here it is.  For what it matters, my ten favourite albums of 2006. In no particular order are… 

The Fratellis.  Costello Music.

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Yes it is derivative, but it is fun, fresh (is that an oxymoron when placed beside derivative?) and got the vote of all my kids and, slightly grudgingly, the Mrs.  It is…. THE GORMAN FAMILY ALBUM OF THE YEAR, and follows on from The Zutons in 2005.  I think you can probably spot a trend.

Joanna Newsom. Ys.

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In stark contrast to the above, this is NOT THE GORMAN FAMILY ALBUM OF THE YEAR, far from it, but I really like it and it is my post.  It is wierd; certainly.  It is beautiful; definitely.  The question will be; does it have staying power?  I don’t know, but The Milk Eyed Mender passed the novelty test for me.

Midlake. The Trials of Van Occupanther.

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I think this is my favourite album of 2006.  I really like it very much.  It is not mainstream but it is very accessible.

Howe Gelb.  ‘Sno Angel Like you.

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Metacritic (see my blogroll, certainly this is the best music site I know, but it has limitations) liked this a lot early in the year which prompted me to buy it.  It faded on their list, but not mine.  Lovely chill-out gospel and wierdness.  Not mainstream though.

Bruce Springsteen.  We shall overcome, the Seeger Sessions.

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In a word; fun.

Lily Allen.  Alright , still.

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This shouldn’t stack up as a good album.  It should be two good singles and 9 fillers.  It is 9 good singles and two fillers.  Respect.

The Beatles.  Love.

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Sorry.  It’s very good.  For the benefit of Mr Kite is verging on the remarkable. I don’t have even the slightest desire to go and see the show in California though.  It might actually be stomach turning. 

Corrine Bailey Rae.  Corrine Bailey Rae.

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I know.  I;m a sucker for this sort of stuff.  Yes it is MOR.  No, it is nothing NOTHING, repeat NOTHING like Billie holliday as the early reviews suggested and that is just indefensible and sloppy journalism in my book.  It is Nora Jonesesq

Donald Fagen.  Morph the Cat.

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OK, it’s not a masterpiece, but I kept playing it and that must be the sign of a good album.

Snow Patrol.  Eyes Open.

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I’m not convinced about this choice.  But it’s a good pop album and it featured one of my favourites, Martha Wainwright, on one of the best singles of the year, so it’s in.

 What isn’t in despite owning/listening to it.

Arctic Monkeys.  Maybe I’m too old.

Bob Dylan.  Maybe I’m too young.

Aye oop


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James Gandolfini is not the world’s most famous chanteur but why should that stop him being the star of a musical love story based on a man dying of lung cancer?  Romance and Cigarettes is such a concept and features a remarkable (notice I didn’t say good) performance by Kate Winslett as a happy hooker in NYC, but hailing from Wigan or somewhere equally unexplicable.  Think Jane Leeves with the regional accent turned up and you’ll be half way there.

This directorial debut by John Turturro with The Coen Bros lurking in the background is one of the more unusaul features we’ve viewed this year and despite a prepostrous plot, some dreadful acting (see above) and no real point we enjoyed this immensely. 

To recommend it would be an act of generosity, if not folly, but if you want to coorie in to a Saturday night movie with a difference you never know you might enjoy it as much as we did.  The image of Kate Winslett literally bouncing about during congress with Gandolfino is worth the hire price alone.

Another highlight is Bruce Springsteen’s revelation that it “Takes a red-headed woman to get a dirty job done.”  Jeana is permanently assigned to bog cleaning duties after this excellent insight.

Bad bridge day


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I was watching an odd movie last night, Romance and Cigarretes (more on this later perhaps) in which, at times, James Gandolfini sits on the Brooklyn Bridge making repairs.  It got me thinking about our own iconic structure situated less than 500m from my front door.  The Forth Road Bridge.  We sometimes think of it as a miracle of construction but, when placed in context, it’s less of a deal.

These are the biggest suspension bridges in the world right now.  Note the absence of the FRB.

  1. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge (Japan) 1991 m – 1998
  2. Great Belt Bridge (Denmark) 1624 m – 1998
  3. Runyang Bridge (China) 1490 m – 2005
  4. Humber Bridge (England) 1410 m – 1981 (The largest from 1981 until 1998.)
  5. Jiangyin Suspension Bridge (China) 1385 m – 1997
  6. Tsing Ma Bridge (Hong Kong) 1377 m – 1997 (with road and metro)
  7. Verrazano Narrows Bridge (USA) 1298 m – 1964 (The largest from 1964 until 1981.)
  8. Golden Gate Bridge (USA) 1280 m – 1937 (The largest from 1937 until 1964.)
  9. Höga Kusten Bridge (Sweden) – 1210 m – 1997
  10. Mackinac Bridge (USA) 1158 m – 1958
  11. Minami Bisan-Seto Bridge (Great Seto Bridge) (Japan) 1118 m – 1988
  12. Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (Turkey) 1090 m – 1988
  13. Bosphorus Bridge (Turkey) 1074 m – 1973
  14. George Washington Bridge (USA) 1067 m – 1931 (The largest from 1931 until 1937.)

But what strikes me more than their size is their age  The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937, The George Washington Bridge in 1931 (For the record the aforementioned Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1883!).

This makes our own favourite suspension bridge, which is becoming unfit for purpose after only 40 years, a laughing stock.  Let’s hope the Executive get the new one right  And that we get something designed in such a way that it becomes not just a functional infrastructure boon, but a world class icon too.

The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake


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This record has repeatedly been brought to my attention by my most respected muso fans, Fowler and Karlossus, in recent weeks.  It also gets respectable but surprisingly not brilliant reviews on Metacritic.com.  However it unquestionably drops straight into the running for album of the year having purchased it on Friday.  The opening track, Roscoe, is the best opening to an album I can recall for a considerable time – as is the convention in music these days the first track (the hook) is the best, but repeated listening quickly brings it back to the field. 

It’s an odd sort of concept album set in a mysterious land (American settlers?) and in that respect one might compare it to Ys by Joanna Newsom; but not in any other, or even to Sufjan Stevens’ American States project. 

It’s a complex love story centred around Van Occupanther and his band of settlers who seem to be gradually starving to death as they cannot glean enough food from the land and this leads to a journey from the land to the sea and possible survival.  It ends on a cliffhanger (almost literally).  I can’t wait till the next instalment.

It has shades of Fleetwood Mac (who I don’t like very much) in the arrangements and is, despite both the cover and the lyrics, a very accessible disc indeed.

 Go on take a risk.  Get it. 

In sympathy for Elvis


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Ok, I am a Hibs fan and you might wonder why on earth my first ever footie post is about the Jambos, but I cannot help but stick up for the rights of Steven (Elvis) Pressley in his predicament at Hearts.

Pressley is a model professional.  I would almost go as far as to say I like him.  He has put in many excellent performances for Scotland and is as articulate as any football professional plying their trade outside of the hallowed land in Leith, where the sun is most certainly shining. 

I admire, unreservedly, the stance ‘Elvis’ has taken against the farce that is ‘the Romanov Revolution’.  That particular movement was concieved amid the joy of Hearts success in reaching second in the league against the backdrop of a woeful Rangers and winning the cup (just) against Gretna.  Their exploits in Europe in general and in the Champions League in particular are best overlooked. 

As it turns out the ‘Romanov Revolution’ is an extraordinarily well concieved notion.  Although it was never meant to be an apocalyptic vision.

Romanov is singularly the worst thing ever to happen to Hearts.  And it’s right up there with the worst in Scottish footballl history.  I am embarrased about the whole fiasco and I don’t even support the team.

He makes the Pieman look like The Messiah.  Hearts do not need a White Knight now; they need the whole of ruddy Camelot with the Heath ledger and his mates in reserve.

I’d laugh (and I have) but, you know what, it’s not funny anymore.

One last point.  Has Elvis had to forego a looming testimonial year because of his principled outspokenness?  If he has I think you Jambos out there need to do something about that.

The missing Chicken pasta recipe


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I realise the completists amongst you have been disturbed by the misposting of this recipe, so I indulge you with bloggish tidiness…

Chop up Asparagus, onions, red pepper, mushroom and anything else you fancy (courgette might be nice, or how about candied crocodile testicles?) into 0.8635cm cubes and set aside for another recipe because you won’t need any of them for this one.

Instead…

Dice chicken breasts (if you roll a six it will be fab, a 1 means you should throw all the ingredients away and save yourself the bother).

Fry off the chicken till it’s brown and set aside.

Brown (to the point of crunchiness) one of those packets of Cubbetti de Pancetta that makes you sound such a snob when you ask the shelfstacker at the Co-op “‘Scuse me, do you have any cubetti de pancetta” and she replies “you what?” and you have to embarresedly say, “You know those wee bacony things.” and she sneers at you “The fridge in the next Aisle (you tosspot).”

Set aside.

Brown some pine nuts. Don’t burn them you idiot, they cost a fortune.

Set aside.

Put everything together in a pot with salt, pepper, finely chopped chilli, a glass of rank white wine, pesto and cook it all up a bit.

Then add it to the pasta you cooked as you were doing all this (I use small stuff, macaroni is good).

Mix it all together and Bob’s your brother.

OK?

Hob Nob Fiasco


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A friend of mine recently had a traumatic experience as a consquence of opening a multipack of mini Chocolate Hob Nobs and asked me to write, on her behalf to McVities to outline the issue.  She has granted me permission to publish the letter in all its glory.  I will keep you appraised of developments…

1 December 2006

 

The Marketing Director

Group HQ
United
Biscuits
Hayes Park

North Hayes End Road
Hayes,
UB4 8EE

Dear Sir,

I recently  purchased a multipack of your Mini Chocolate Hob Nobs for my family.  We are not wealthy people and so this exquisite treat was something I and my 11 children anticipated for a number of days before my husband, their father, who is vicar at our local Free Presbyterian Church granted us permission to indulge.

 

Can you imagine therefore the look of horror on our faces as, upon gleefully ripping open the outer packaging and setting upon the first of those little packets of wheaty sunshine and cocoa, we realised that the first two packets contained but two biscuits?

Your packaging does not proclaim that this is a ‘Mini Hob Nob twin pack’ like your rather more substantial competitor, the Twix.

Oh no, it implies, I would suggest, a veritable cornucopia, an abundance indeed, of biscuity indulgence.

Your packaging proudly proclaims “NOW LOWER IN SALT.”  Sir, I respectfully suggest you re-engage your graphic design team and reset the printing plates so that the package now exclaims.

“NOW LOWER IN BISCUITS.”

Additionally the aforementioned packaging promises that the contents are a ‘source of fibre with no artificial colours’.  I would suggest that this is also reframed to read…’a source of limited fibre.’  It cannot be disputed that there are no artificial colours because, frankly, there are next to no ruddy biscuits.

Come on McVities; my children weep.  This experience was as if we were contestants in “Help my boab.  I’m a celebrity get me out of here.” who have just found out the result of a booshsucker trial carried out by Scott Henshaw – although I have to confess I can only take this on gossip, as we naturally have no television in our Spartan abode.

I trust you will listen to our plea for a fairer deal on the Mini Chocolate Hob Nob front.  Surely in the name of the Lord God Almighty these packages should contain a minimum of six cookies.

If you were to replace the two offending packets (I ask no more) you will be graced with the light of the lord in your life.

God bless you