Monthly Archives: October 2014

Rushing to 1-click: Love Nina by Nina Stibbe

I love epistolary memoirs. The first one I read was Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road. The minutiae of daily life, the interpersonal exchanges, the casual musings of someone who has a definite worldview – and a sense of humour – this is literary gold. It hardly feels literary, however; it’s just a peek into someone’s life, someone you wish you knew. It’s very close to a diary, although a letter has an audience whereas a diary isn’t supposed to.

Love, Nina is a wonderful example of an epistolary memoir. In the early 80s, Nina Stibbe became nanny to a literary household, with two boys aged around 10 and 11, and a dryly witty writer mother. Various friends, including Alan Bennett, add their two cents to dinnertime conversation, which Nina reports verbatim in her letters to her sister in Leicester.

By page 17 I knew this was going to be one of my favourite books ever, so rushed to 1-click it on Amazon and had it delivered to all my devices, although I also want a hard copy to lend to friends. This book is, like The Rosie Project, one of my big laugh-out-loud favourite books this year. The Rosie Effect, which I am reading on my Kindle app on my phone while I exercise on the treadmill at the gym (it’s ok, everyone else is wearing earphones so they can’t hear me laughing) is another one but as it’s a sequel of The Rosie Project perhaps doesn’t count.

It helps if you can hear an English accent while you read. London/Estuary accent for most of them, and Northern for Nina (I can’t conjure up a Midlands accent, even in my head, so figure Northern is the next best). And sometimes cockney, especially this part:

“The best bit was when we went into an antique shop and Misty picked up a pickle fork with a pretty green jewel on the end.

“How much is this pickle fork?” she asked the antique man.

The man said it wasn’t a pickle fork but a runcible spoon.

Misty: What’s a runcible spoon?

Man: One of them in your hand.

Misty: But what’s it for?

Man: Pickles and such.”

When I read this exchange I heard the voice of Mike, my cockney co-worker at a jewellery store in London. It’s exactly the kind of thing he would say, too, which I suppose is why he was in the basement doing all the shipping/receiving instead of being on the floor selling silver shooter cups to punters like the rest of us.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s wonderful, I hope you read it.



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Being Thankful, in Canada

Canadian Thanksgiving is organized so well. It’s the first weekend in October, so it kicks off the season with a big turkey dinner, which we eat happily, knowing we won’t be having turkey again for another two and a half months. In America, Thanksgiving is so close to Christmas that the leftover from the first holiday could almost furnish the next holiday’s meal. My husband doesn’t particularly care for turkey, so he’s thankful for the larger gap we have up north. Actually, we didn’t even have turkey on Thanksgiving. My mother is in Bermuda and she took her turkey dinner know-how with her. We had friends round and had fun snacking on appies, like an apple and goat cheese pizza that turned out better than I’d anticipated. I’m thankful for that!

I’m also thankful my sister’s family survived Hurricane Faye, which hit Bermuda with terrifying force. The home videos were scary, although they would have been scarier if there wasn’t laughter in the background. Their house is situated in a very sheltered location so they were quite sanguine. I’m thankful for that too.

Being thankful is on my mind as I recently watched About Time, which is one of those movies that reminds you to appreciate life. I’m also reading The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and oh my god I’m thankful I live in these times and this place and not the time and place in the novel. And here in the first world we do need to remember our many blessings and stop complaining about all our first world problems. One of our chefs is leaving and tonight he made the most beautiful, seasonal omakase meal for our family. I ate so much I’m going to have heartburn later. See? First world problem.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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After a long hiatus…

I have not abandoned my blog. I’ve just taken a bit of time to…well, to collapse inward a bit and not shout out to the universe. (I’ve been reading everyone else’s blogs instead.) This is just an update, although there is a recipe at the end.

I think one of my last posts was my eulogy for my maternal grandmother, who died on Christmas Eve. In April, my paternal grandmother died also, after a stroke. So it’s been a sad year and I’ve taken some time to think about things and also to switch off and escape into books when I can. I’ve discovered that I’m an introvert – instead of just periodically antisocial – and although it’s a relief to know that this is “normal” I think that the recognition of my personality type has made my introversion stronger. More on that later.

I’m still reading, still cooking, still getting outraged at some of the things that go on in this world and also at some of the things that go on in the restaurants we own. More on that later.

Good things have happened also, such as the May birth of my new nephew in Bermuda. He is a real gift from the universe and we absolutely adore him. I miss having babies and it’s been wonderful to spend time with a baby again. Even the poo! It’s all good. I remember when I lived in Malaysia and I had friends who had babies.  They would be surprised when strangers wanted to touch their baby. We’d be all, Oh my god, but now I get it. Everyone with older children misses babies. No wonder people hanker after grandchildren. Not me, my kids are 8 and 10, but some people. I’m sure I will hanker when my time comes. In 20 years or so! In the meantime I have to visit Bermuda in order to spend time with my enchanting, yummy, tiny bear of a nephew.

And books. Books books books thank you god. When times are rough I escape into the worlds that writers create and bless those writers. I think books have saved me from going completely mental sometimes. I’ve now read too many to review but will try to list my favourites. Also, is it just me, or are some e-books expurgated? I downloaded James Clavell’s Shogun because I just enjoy it so much, but I’m certain there are passages missing. I know because I took Shogun backpacking (in 1992) and re-read it many times and have also reread it periodically ever since, like The Lord of the Rings. I know, my nerd is showing. Anyway, here’s the thing: the downloaded version is definitely missing some passages. Cue gasp. More on books later.

Still playing the piano, although I have trouble finding pieces that fit my criterion. I want pieces I love to hear, that aren’t too easy, that aren’t too hard, and that provide enough emotional energy to  serve as an outlet for all the frustrations and passions of life. Like hockey does for my husband. So, Beethoven is good because I love Beethoven and also there’s lots of crashing about that relieves my pent-up feelings. Debussy, while I love to hear it when someone else plays, I find too soft and mellow for my needs. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue (arranged for piano) has been awesome in that respect although I wish I had an actual organ with which to terrorize the neighbourhood. Big chords, lots of tricky runs that require hard work, and, it’s frequently punctuated with tempestuous double-forte climaxes. Baroque multiple orgasm, who knew?

Food? Still love food although I haven’t posted recipes in ages. I’ve got my hands on the Sobo Cookbook (Sobo is a restaurant in Tofino, BC and the food is memorable) and am about to start cooking some of Lisa Ahier’s remarkable dishes. Will keep you posted on that.

Here’s the recipe and it comes from my husband Justin: dip cucumber chunks in Sriracha chili sauce! I tried this combination cautiously because I can’t take too much spice but it is amazing! Super tasty, salty and spicy and juicy and crunchy and cool. And then spicy again. Sorry, not a major recipe, but I hope it was worth reading through this post.

More later….




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