Sunday, September 30, 2012

Big People

We were on our way out of the hospital yesterday when we bumped into a guy who obviously recognised us. I couldn't recall who he was, but Noi remembered him as a friend of Fuad's called Razali we'd met at least once before and we started chatting about why we were there. It turned out that his eldest son, a ten-year-old, had been diagnosed with stage four cancer, a brain tumour, just over a year ago, and he's still being treated, having gone through various stages of chemotherapy along with direct radiation treatment. His dad had just come from work to see him.

And all this told us in an almost matter of fact manner, without a trace of self-pity, just concern for the little lad.

Then today Noi found out from Rozita that the younger child, whom Razali mentioned in passing as it were, suffers from Down's Syndrome...

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Popped over to the National University Hospital this afternoon to visit Kak Kiah, who banged her head badly against a door earlier today as a result of a fall. She looked very much the worse for wear in her hospital bed, with stitches and one of those cumbersome neck collars. Simply eating was difficult for her, apart from the fact she has no real appetite at the moment. The doctors are obviously concerned about possible further falls and damage to her spine. So, for the moment, things are far from good.

In contrast I'm happy to report that, back in Melaka, whence Noi paid a fleeting visit last Thursday, young Afnan is thriving once again. It seems he's now capable of climbing into his own baby walker. When he stayed with us generally the only thing he climbed over was yours truly. I suspect, I hope, he's got years of bruised shins and banged heads lying in painful but glorious wait.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Being Small

It was the smallness, the pettiness, of Julian Barnes's narrator in The Sense of an Ending that got to me. It's not that I was recognising myself, exactly, but the itching awareness of aspects of the self cried out for scratching.

Tony Webster can fairly be described as an everyman figure because we are all small in some ways; awfully, possibly most ways. Just hope it's not all ways.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Exactly The End Of The Day

Just finished Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending. It got under my skin in a not terribly pleasant but wholly beneficent way of which more when I get a free minute. Not too many of those today as I'm taking some students to the Esplanade for a bit of culture: Bach, Mozart & Beethoven - which is almost like having everything except it's J.C. and not J.S. Bach so it's not quite.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Boxed In

I should have seen it coming. One of the first of the several ridiculous things I had to do in those long-ago, not-even-slightly-missed days of teacher training was a pointless exercise about devising some sort of lesson where you had to differentiate in the pre-ordained boxes given between Aims (whatever they are) and Objectives (whatever they may be.) I dutifully did what was necessary not terribly well in the certain knowledge that it was impossible to do the task well in the context of an English Language lesson, which was what I was forced to work on.

I have spent my career doing, as far as possible, what I want to do in the classroom and, generally, enjoying quite a fruitful time doing so. Unfortunately once outside the protected ground of the classroom I have spent inordinate amounts of time filling in boxes I do not wish to fill in.

At one time all this would have made me distinctly hot under the collar, prone to intoning Blake's I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's under my breath. Now I just smile at it all. Which, I'm afraid, indicates the extent of my enslavement.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Highly Graphic

Bought a couple of graphic novels/comic books recently with the spoils from services rendered at the Gifted Programme's Literature Seminar - along with a pile of poetry books, which seemed morally appropriate in the circumstances. Still haven't really started on the poetry, but have now finished the Century 1969 book in Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series and Jeff Lemire's The Underwater Welder. Enjoyed both, but wouldn't recommend Century 1969 other than to confirmed addicts of the series. I can't imagine the casual reader making anything of Mr Moore's current fictive universe, especially now it's chock full of deeply obscure references to pop culture of the period in question. There just can't be that many folks remember Edward Woodward's brilliant Callan, but there he is making a guest appearance, with Lonely to accompany. And if that sentence leaves you baffled, I'm afraid 1969 is not for you.

But The Underwater Welder is, surely, for everyone. It's wonderfully accessible in such a page-turning manner that I had to consciously slow down and deliberately take two sittings to complete the story. The introduction tells us that it's like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and that's absolutely right - The Twilight Zone at its memorable best - clever, but with a heart. And the wonderful thing is that the story could only really work to its full effect in this medium. Just one small thing: Lemire has a genius for drawing eyes. The two that peer out from the cover provide all the evidence needed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Good Health

Around 9.00 am I didn't feel terribly well without actually being ill. And then it passed.

The non-experience served as a reminder that I've maintained undeserved good health for almost all the year so far. Sometimes when people (kindly) ask me about my back I have to take a moment to remember I have a problem. I'm under no illusion that the problem has vanished, I know it's lying dormant, as it were. But being able to move around for the most part with hardly any consciousness of the fact I'm not suppposed to be moving around with anything close to reasonable ease will do for me.

And there's a certain joy in not taking any medication whatsoever.

Now when you add to all this the fact that Maureen has sounded entirely like her old self for every phone-call I've made since her original return to form, you'll understand why I'm going to stop writing on this topic while I'm winning.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

As It Stands

Just taking a quick break during half-time from United's game at Anfield. Lucky to still be in the game, even though they've now got the extra man. (Shelvey had to go - just watch what he does with his right leg.) But then I expected Liverpool to up their game by a factor of ten for this one. Must say I really rate the boy Sterling.

To be honest, just for a change I'm not so bothered about the result this time. It's enough that the crowd behave decently. Signs seemed good at the beginning, but you never know.

Hope Sir Alex gets out the hair-dryer ahead of part 2, though. Even in my present benign mood I still want victory. But I'll settle for a draw as things stand.


Winning ugly is what Liverpool used to be able to do. Sometimes it's what you've got to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Gave The Who's Quadrophenia a spin this afternoon, and was jolly glad I did so. Tuneful, toe-tapping stuff. Which got me thinking how really extraordinary it was that no fewer than three major British bands of the sixties were following in the wake of the greatest of them all, those lovable mop-heads from Liverpool, each one possessed of someone, sometimes more than one, of major song-writing ability and several of superlative instrumental chops: The Rolling Stones, The Who themselves, and The Kinks (possibly the finest of the trio in their way, though hardly recognised as such.) What was it in the air that allowed such a blossoming?

And then I got to thinking of how a few days ago I was reminded of the death of the unsurpassable Jimi Hendrix (sort of semi-British in an oddly sixties kind of way, and just twenty-seven when we lost him); and then I just happened upon a nice piece in The Straits Times telling with melancholy ruefulness (not a quality you find too often in its pages) of the fortunes of Mick Taylor, poor Brian Jones's replacement in the Stones, after leaving Mick & co. It seems he left to get away from their destructive life-style (i.e., hard drugs) and believes himself highly fortunate to have done so, despite now living in near poverty.

There are those who tacitly link the creative blossoming of the period with the license it extended for young people to screw up their lives through experimentation with various dangerously fashionable substances. I don't. Not at all. All I see is waste - the frittering away of talents, and sometimes something greater than that, in the pursuit of oblivion.

It's good to know that young Mick Taylor (I can somehow only see him that way despite the passage of years) escaped that.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Unusually for me I watched a couple of fairly substantial things on telly early this evening. The first was deliberate. I've been feeling mildly depressed since finishing the Ishiguro, largely on account of following it by dipping into some Holocaust related reviews and writing, including a very fine piece by Christopher Browning in a recent New York Review of Books dealing with material on some of the Jewish leaders who negotiated and, to some degree, collaborated with the Nazis. So I thought I might as well watch something to cheer me up.

The something was the first episode from Attenborough and the BBC's Blue Planet series. If watching the blue whale at the beginning doesn't make you feel better about the world then nothing will. Out came my trusty DVD and some fifty dazzling minutes later I'm thinking the world isn't such a bad place after all - well, the bit that comprises oceans, that is.

Then I'm idly browsing through the channels and I hit the start of that film documentary The Fog of War featuring Bob McNamara spilling the beans on the American involvement in Vietnam. Brilliant stuff: McNamara is captivating on camera, and the supporting footage is an extraordinary counterpoint. The only problem is that although watching this obviously highly intelligent and, more importantly, obviously deeply decent and humane guy is hypnotic in the extreme, it's also depressing. So I'm back where I started.

History is a nightmare from which I don't think I'll ever wake up, to mangle a much better line.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not Letting Go

When I found out that one of my Extended Essay students was thinking of basing her essay on Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go I felt a curious yet distinct reluctance to re-read the novel. I was surprised as it's a very fine book by a very fine writer and I'd enjoyed it immensely the first time round. Now having read it for a second time I've figured out where the reluctance came from.

Yes it's enjoyable, and very easy to read, typically so of Ishiguro, but it's also broodingly unsettling as you read, and even more so once you put it down. It's partly the subject matter, of course, the stuff of sci-fi horror, but it's also the way that horror is transmuted by the very quietness of the novel, its strange ordinariness, into real horror. And the fact that the important questions are not just not answered but not even raised means you can't get the darn book out of your head. Take a simple one, possibly the simplest of all: Why is it that none of the 'specials', as it were, attempt to run away from their fates, or even think of doing so? Even on a re-reading I kept expecting Ishiguro to at least nod mildly in that direction. No, nothing. Just a dreadful, awful gap in consciousness.

I really don't want to think about this too much more, at least for the moment. But I know I'll have to go back.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Playing

It was my cousin John who articulated the thought for me when we staying at John & Jeanette's back in April. At the time of the Moors Murders, before anyone had heard of Brady & Hindley, there was obviously a lot of concern about the poor missing kids around our area. Yet we were allowed to play out pretty much as usual. Which meant being out of the house with your mates at every possible opportunity, for as long as possible, getting up to as much mischief as possible.

I'd always thought this was the case because I can remember routinely passing Denton police station in a gang, a long way from home, and seeing the poster for John Kilbride, but I did wonder if memory had played tricks. Cousin John though is a couple of years my senior and he was very clear as to the freedom we were granted.

Isn't that wonderfully sane, almost unthinkable today when children are grotesquely over-protected? Our parents knew, in a deeper way than we ever could, having lived through, and fought in, a war, that the world in a dangerous place. But they also knew that dangers needed to be encountered if kids were really going to be allowed to be kids. I suppose nowadays someone would be planning to lock them up for neglect.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying To Be Intelligent

Just to think of the mess, the suffering, created as a result of that supremely daft, supremely nasty video about the Prophet (peace be upon him) posted on the net is deeply depressing. When Noi asked me about it over the weekend I just about managed to snarl out something to the effect that the video is stupid and Muslims reacting to its posting by blaming America for it and resorting to violent protest are allowing themselves to become part of the stupidity - sort of snarling because I didn't want to think about the mess too much. But, of course, it's all a lot more complex and nuanced than that (though neither of those terms applies to the actual video.) And we're in a world that requires us to think things through as intelligently as we can if we're to balance the fundamental tendency of our species to stupidity.

Fortunately it is possible to find intelligent material - even on the net - that allow insights into the foolishness. There's a fine piece by one Esam Al-Amin (don't know who is, but he's no fool) at the very punchy Counterpunch with which I'm not in complete agreement but which I found greatly illuminating in terms of its searching analysis over the whole business of First Amendment rights.

For now, though, I lack the energy to debate the issues, fascinating as they are. But I do have a recommendation for something that anyone can do to enhance their appreciation of the wonders of the world. One of the great discoveries of my adult life was the story of the Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him.) Told well and intelligently it's life altering. It transcends all the pettiness. It points the way.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taking Ownership

You don't really possess something unless you know you can let it go; otherwise it possesses you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More Worrying

Little Afnan is not so well back in Melaka. He's now in hospital having had another bad asthma attack. When he was staying with us here at the Hall Noi got very passionate in her use of Dettol in a bid to prevent any problems on this side of the Causeway and fortunately for us, and the little fellah, it seemed to work.

Picture above of better times, soon to come again, insya'allah.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Sometimes I worry about students who are far too gentle and kind for their own good, and there are far more of these than people sometimes imagine. What will happen when they collide with the big bad world out there, or, rather, it collides with them?

Of course, there's always the possibility they will inherit it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Truth And Justice

If ever you feel that there's really no such thing as the truth and everything's sort of just relative in a clever post-modern kind of way, watch a recording of the news conference given by the Hillsborough Independent Panel following the release of their report on the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989. I felt like crying all the way through: with sadness for the 96 victims and their bereaved families and friends; and with rage over how they've been treated for 23 years.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chiming For Freedom

I think I'm right in saying that today marks the release of the latest studio album from His Bobness. Despite my fanboy status on this one I'm not desperate to get hold of Tempest, though it is, of course, on autobuy, as there's so much great stuff to be going on with anyway. This includes one of my more recent purchases, Chimes of Freedom, The Songs of Bob Dylan, which has been receiving frequent air-time both at home and in the car. There're four packed CDs to savour and although the great man features only once (with Chimes itself, in the original recording) his spirit is everywhere.

It's astonishing to realise just how many utterly wonderful songs Dylan has been responsible for. And when you hear other people do them you realise afresh just how great they are as pieces in themselves as opposed to hearing them as vehicles for the Bobster's astonishing performances. (I suppose equally stunning is the attendant realisation of how much has had to be left off. No one, for example, had the temerity to cover Tangled Up In Blue, hardly surprisingly.)

Even though there are a few clunkers on board in terms of lacklustre performances - no names, no packdrill, I'm far too charitable for that - even these are somehow acceptable since, at the very least, you can run through the original in your mind as they are being wrecked, with a better understanding of why they worked originally. But I reckon at least half the cuts are downright inspired, whilst most are more than acceptable. For example, to my delighted surprise Miley Cyrus does a nice job on You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, reminding me (as if I needed it) of just how fragilely perfect the lyric is.

I'd be jabbering on forever if I tried to do justice to the inspired stuff, but I'll just mention one two three wonderful tracks: Rise Against (never heard of them before, but great players) absolutely revitalise The Ballad of Hollis Brown; Love Sick gets a fabulously off-beat Mexican reading from Mariachi El Bronx; and Eric Burdon's Gotta Serve Somebody would make any right-minded open-eared individual serve the lord in the funkiest way imaginable.

And just think, by buying the set you're donating to everybody's favourite human rights group. Blimey.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Definitely Done

Finished Henning Mankell's The Fifth Woman yesterday, and this is one I won't be reading again. I say this not because I didn't enjoy the novel, I most emphatically did, but because I can't see what would be gained from a re-reading. The text works as a one-time only experience, it seems to me, even though I know I'll forget the plot almost completely. I can't think of any straight thriller or detective story that would benefit from a second reading - but, then, I suppose that my implicit understanding of 'straight' here is based on a kind of circular argument: the straightness lies in the lack of those qualities that would make a re-reading valuable. And what are those? Tentatively, either qualities of style, beyond workmanlike prose, that make the act of simply reading rewarding in itself, or qualities of content that surpass the telling of a good tale. Of course I can imagine reading the novel one day as comfort reading (time spent with Kurt Wallander is always enjoyable somehow, for the reader if not the character), but then there's so much new stuff to read that gives immediate comfort that I can't see any real need ever being involved.

Actually on one level I thought the novel was overlong - easily cut-able by a couple of hundred pages. But the fans (self included) don't want the lean, mean novel that lurks within. They want to linger with their (flawed) hero. A good story told in workmanlike prose is always worth a read, but just the one. (And in case anyone thinks I'm implying it's somehow easy for a writer to churn out such material, I'm not.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Not Exactly Finished

It took me a while to do it, but yesterday I reached the end of Charles Causley's Collected Poems 1951 - 2000 - and immediately felt like going right back to the beginning. Reading of collections, single books and anthologies in this manner is something I've only been doing for three or four years, but I find it peculiarly rewarding. It gives a sense of having finished the collection whilst holding out the wonderful possibilities of revisiting individual poems which, of course, can never be truly finished.

Possible definition of poetry there: bits of writing that can never be read to a conclusion.

(By the by, ending the Collected with Eden Rock is a master-stroke. That extraordinarily simple, yet resonant throwaway final line: I had not thought that it would be like this. For the reading he does for the Poetry Archive version Mr Causley manages to throw the ending away even more so, if that's possible. You can listen here. And has anyone ever used half-rhymes with such utter perfection?)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In The Mood

Now three-quarters of the way through Syawal and still visiting and entertaining. And related to that, sort of: above is a shot taken back in Alor Gajah, on the first day of Raya when we were out visiting. Pretty atmospheric, I'd say. Credit where credit's due - my camera, but Fifi on the shutter.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Great Guitar Solos 5

Had to include at least one American in the list, and it seems appropriate to go for something off one of Bill Frisell's most American albums, the surpassingly fine Have A Little Faith. Actually I'm not sure he can be regarded as actually playing a solo as such in his version of Madonna's Live To Tell, although the coruscating passage towards the end once the melody has been reprised, before everything breaks down into another free-form jam, probably qualifies, but the whole guitar part is just so heart-breakingly gorgeous I don't care what it might be called. Also I'm assuming some double-tracking has gone on in the studio, but it's done with such perfection that you don't really notice it even when you do.

Curiously the beauty of Mr Frisell's playing seems to be related to the fact that he never quite plays the melody (of itself very beautiful) in its entirety or, as it were, correctly. Of all the solos I've discussed this is the one that comes closest to eliciting tears. As Signor Benedick once put it: Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies? Well, it is so, and there you are.

I recently discovered a live version from 1993 on youtube, and this is also very fine, especially the free-form chunk in the middle which in some ways outdoes that on the studio version, but I just know the studio version so well that I'm utterly enamoured of it (which is a bit unusual for someone who pretty much invariably otherwise prefers his music live.) In fact, I once used the track (in its complete form) in a workshop for teachers on getting kids to write haiku. Don't ask me how, but I did and am inordinately proud of doing so.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not Knowing

It was on the eve of Hari Raya, as Hamza and I went in search of the perfect teh tarik after doing the Ishaq prayer, that he asked me about what has been happening in Syria, and my opinion thereof. I wasn't entirely surprised at the question. We tend to have wide-ranging conversations generally, and Hamza visited Syria some six or seven years back, doing some IT-related business, and I knew then had formed a generally favourable impression of what was going on. (Essentially his current position is one of bewilderment.)

The problem was my sudden realisation that I knew next to nothing about what is and has been really happening there of late, despite broadly following the coverage of the up-rising. About the best I could do was suggest that the divisions in Syrian society might well be of long-standing and broadly sectarian with tribal overtones. Villages become the centres for massacres because of their perceived alignments, those they are seen to represent or support. I think. I guess.

And it seemed to me I was failing in some kind of responsibility. Given my interests and my background, if I know next to nothing, who is likely to do better? I thought of ignorant armies clashing by night, and knew I was the one who should do better.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Matters Olympian

It felt strange watching the London Olympics at such a distance. Dubious as I am about the exploitation of sporting events for the fostering of national pride, I thought the Brits maintained a reasonable balance and managed, for the most part, to be proud of things that are worth being proud of. The sheer eccentricity of the opening ceremony was a joy.

But what has made me hugely proud of my nation has been the staging of the Paralympics so far, and the coverage given in the British media. Finally instead of being shunted away into obscure corners of the news some of the greatest athletes on the planet (and I mean 'greatest' in every sense) are being taken seriously and given the treatment they deserve. They interviewed a prosthetics specialist on Sky News the other night regarding the Oscar Pistorius fracas and his delight over the serious exposure his specialism was receiving was palpable.

By the way, everyone in the 100 metres final is capable of a time below 11 seconds!

I happened to be watching one of those strange style make-over programmes tonight, or rather, the Missus was watching and I was an innocent by-stander, and the rather silly lady they were doing the business on was referred to at one point as 'inspirational' by her vacuous friend. No, she wasn't. But the guys at the Paralympics are, emphatically so. Nice to see that is finally being recognised in a big way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Pleased to report that I seem to have got my reading back on track. Now happily being depressed by Henning Mankell's melancholic Wallander in The Fifth Woman and shivering away in windswept Skane. Excellent opening with the murder of a guy who was a bit of a poet with an obsessional interest in birds. There are those, of course, who'd say he got what he deserved for that alone.

Also back on course with Merwin's narrative poem The Folding Cliffs, this being my third attempt to make headway on what is obviously an impressive, but rather forbidding piece. Well, forbidding for me at least. Mind you I finally cracked Browning's The Ring and the Book after several failed attempts. Oh, and I'm including Kate Bernheimer's collection My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me on the list of current reading which cannot be abandoned. Not that I've ever really abandoned it. It's just that almost every story has the intensity of opening a new world to the reader and I can't take in too much at once. Also these are not stories that necessarily grip of themselves - they're all a bit too post-modern for that.

This is quite unlike A Place of Execution - duly finished early on Sunday morning - which I'd highly recommend to anyone who wants to read a powerful story beautifully told. I thought I might have figured out what the plot twist was going to be but I was, as usual, wide of the mark. The twist was excellent, being integral to the nature of the story told and, in that sense, a natural one. But, having said that, I'm not sure it was one hundred percent convincing. (There's a spoiler coming up, so don't read on if you intend to read the book.)

The problem is that the essential premise of the novel is that the little community that the 'victim' comes from conspires to ensure the execution of her 'murderer', hiding the fact that she is not dead at all. He has been systematically abusing the children of the community and this is their way of dealing with him. Since the 'murderer' is the sort of squire of the village, his feudal grip over them is such that they don't feel they will be believed by those in authority if he is reported. All well and good, except for the fact that the key evidence they have against him comes in the form of photographs of the abuse and it is abundantly clear that the police are only too ready to take whatever action against him that they can as a result of the few photographs to which they are initially exposed. So why not simply spill the beans on the nasty sod?

The writer makes it work as long as you are prepared to suspend your disbelief, which is what all fiction is about, of course. But it reminds me of just how impossible I find it to plot almost anything. I'm always looking for a kind of impossible perfection in these matters.

Monday, September 3, 2012

More Than A Little Precious

Actually I'm all for commodifying people as long as we understand that in the final assessment they are priceless.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Social Whirl, Again

I suppose it was some time in my mid-twenties that I realised I was basically an introvert. I'm using the term here in its Jungian sense, not as identifying some defect of personality but as a way of expressing an essential orientation of the self inwards (sometimes in a dubiously self-concerned manner, I'm afraid.) The fact that I'd always enjoyed the company of others and never gone short of friends in my formative years had, to some degree, blinded me to my ready acceptance of solitude and all that that implied. But the passage of years made it more and more clear that the journey inwards was going to be where the real action was for me. In turn came the realisation that I needed to strive for balance in terms of looking outward, but I generally found the rough and tumble of my work more than adequate for my needs in that direction.

I've now reached the point at which I find it difficult to connect with a much younger version of myself who seemed to long for as much company as possible most nights of the week. To find the space simply to read what I want to is sufficient joy to fulfil all my social needs. Of course, to be blessed with the perfect companion with whom to share the mercy of days is no small help in all this.

Yet the last three days have involved non-stop encounters of the human kind in a most satisfactory manner - heavily featuring quite a number with my drama guys in the course of our annual camp; and then with various guests joining us for a day of Raya-ing - such that I've found myself quite forgetful of the self who'd normally find all this a touch overwhelming. Life in the old dog yet?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New Territory

I'm a good way through Val McDermid's A Place of Execution and enjoying it immensely. Wasn't sure how I'd take to her stuff since I'm not a particular devotee of tv's Wire In The Blood which derives from some of her novels - though I do find it reasonably watchable when I'm in the mood. But this novel strikes me as vastly superior to that sort of generic serial-killer stuff and I'm keen to read some more, possibly even the Tony Hill novels on which the telly series is based.

Amongst the many virtues of A Place of Execution is its tremendous sense of period and place: basically my part of the north of England at the time of the Moors Murders - which sort of feature as a sideline to the main story. Oddly I'm feeling a sense of mourning for all those poor lost kids. I remember John Kilbride's picture being on display in the window at Denton Police Station seemingly for ever. He would have been just a couple of years older than me, approaching sixty, had he lived. A rich lifetime lost.

I'm uneasy at anything that uses the deaths of children as a kind of entertainment. Ms McDermid's novel doesn't, I'm very happy to say.