Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

The UnAmericans

Love Belarus

by Molly Antopol

So I am half way through this book of short stories and finding them fantastic. I half-heartedly suggested this to my bookclub but they weren’t too pushed and as I didn’t know if it would be any good I didn’t pursue it and suggested Sofi Oksanen’s ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ instead (and it went down well). I do wish we’d gone with it now. One story in particular impressed me. ‘My Grandmother tells me this Story’ and not just because it was set in Belarus.

You can read the full story here:

http://www.ecotonejournal.com/index.php/articles/details/my_grandmother_tells_me_this_story/

It’s about a Jewish kid hiding in the forests in Belarus during the second world war. It reminded me of ‘City of Thieves’ by David Benioff (where is the petition for that movie to be made, will it be after Game of Thrones is finished?) and also the movie Defiance, which I somehow managed never to hear about before this summer.

Keeping this short, as otherwise I won’t post.  I was in Hodges Figgis a few weeks ago and overheard a conversation between a couple about how she couldn’t buy any more books until she started reading all the ones she already had. And I though, hey, didn’t I have some resolution about that at some stage, should I start again?

So, I was making a new resolution about not buying new books (not even for my husband) but when I was buying some for my niece’s birthday present I saw that in Hodges Figgis they were selling books where 100% of the proceeds go to the Syrian Crisis Appeal. How could I say no?

Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov

Edited by Robert Chandler

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I hate that some people may take from my recent blogs, Facebook posts, tweets etc. that I am anti-Russian. I hate what Putin has done and I hate the fact that plenty of Russians believe the propaganda of the fascism of the West, but there is really so much I love of Russia and its people and definitely its arts. I already mentioned my Belarusian friend, whom I met in Skerries when I was 14 and who took that trip to Crimea with me 10 years later. 10 years later she is living in Dublin with her Irish husband and I am godmother to one of her two sons.  She taught me the cyrillic letters and introduced me to Russian literature. I had head of War and Peace but it seemed like some huge tome that was meant to sit on a shelf and not be read. She told me they studied it in school. At the time I was studying Steinbeck’s novella ‘The Pearl’ and it didn’t seem to quite compare.

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I had always been a fan of fairy tales and enjoyed reading those from lands far away, including Russia. When choosing my college courses as a clueless 16 year old, I had selected some course relating to folk tales as my top non degree choice. That was never going to happen though, I was always going to end up doing a more ‘useful’ degree. (My practical self should thank the elders who persuaded me this way, my dreamy self regrets what might have been.) When I left Belarus, my Russian teacher and good friend was very enthusiastic, though perhaps a little over optimistic, about my progress. She wanted me to prepare for exams for teaching Russian as a foreign language. On the train to Crimea I had some books to read, a diary to write in and an exercise book for my Russian. I did continue going to classes in Dublin for a few years after I returned, but I am ashamed to say that I have forgotten most of it through lack of practice. (Like my French, like my Irish. I wish I could be one of those people who seem to be able to hold multiple languages in their head and juggle around. It is not for a lack of fantastic and generous teachers. Frau Harbison, who devoted her life to teaching German to the children of Skerries and helped me when I was going through a rough patch with my degree; Oksana, who taught me twice a week as paid for by my employers and three times a week out of the goodness of her heart and Lorena, who became a part time wedding planner and full time friend. We said ‘hasta luego’ last night and there were more than a few tears as the realisation set in.)  Oksana gave me some lovely copies of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy etc. when I left Minsk, but probably those I would be more likely to return to at this stage are the ‘skazki’, the fairy tales. Randomly I’m just remembering my attempt at translating the Children of Lir into Russian (deti Lira) back when I had my daily lessons.

One of my favourites growing up was The Firebird and I was happy to find that one here. I suppose it is probably one of the better known tales, since it has been transformed into a ballet by Stravinsky, though I haven’t managed to see that one yet, even though in my time in Minsk I tried to take in as many ballets as possible at the local, but well regarded Bolshoi theatre. Back in Dublin you see the same standards every year, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty. It drives my ballet teacher cousin crazy.

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Speaking of fairy tales, a few months ago I discovered an enchanted forest close to Jimena de la Frontera. As we had made the decision to move home we tried to make the most of the time we had left here and visit the places we hadn’t seen. We arrived on that March night in heavy rain and there were lots of snipes at each other. The next morning I was not surprised to discover that the hike I wanted to join was cancelled. If in Ireland we always waited for dry weather we’d never go hiking at all. The owner of the posada pointed me to a short route around the edge of the town. I noticed that a longer route followed the river and decided to try for that one. (The posada by the way was ‘rustic’ but enchanting and had a huge library which must have been owned by some late expat; it seems like it was stuck at a certain point of time. I wouldn’t say this was the best place I’ve stayed at in Spain, but I liked the quirkiness.)

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According to the map at some point there was a bridge across the river but I never came across it. ‘Marked’ walks are a bit like that in Spain, you follow a few spruced up signs, begin to believe the trails are as well organised as Switzerland…… and then you’re on your own. I did pass an area where I saw some blocks under the water and I wondered if that was it. In any other season there might be less water and it could be easy to cross but it wasn’t a goer at that time. I didn’t want to get to the other side and find I was wrong.

So I continued on, following what must have been sheep’s paths, getting further from civilisation and closer to the monster’s lair or the hidden prince’s palace.

It was nice to be somewhere different and all alone. Around Casares there are so many houses blighting the landscape. I’m sure they could not all have had the proper permits. You are never this alone.

As I moved on searching for the elusive bridge I had to hope I could follow the gingerbread crumbs back. I felt like that guy in ‘My Side of the Mountain’. I could just start living in a tree and make my life here. Does anybody write children’s novels like that (or, say, ‘The House at World’s End’) any more or do they all have to be super realistic and basically child services would be called in?

So the book itself. Despite my intention to replace A Clash of Kings with The Count of Monte Cristo, this became my go to car book. As the stories are short it probably made more sense.

It’s interesting that some versions of the tales have been from the same base story and yet are so different. I used to be so angry with Disney for not sticking to the ‘real’ story, though I was comparing to the Grimm Brothers who apparently collated different versions and streamlined them into one.

There really is an emphasis on the threes. The three sisters, a common theme in Russian fairytales and literature.Three daughters, three sons, three chicks, three tsaroviches. Well in my family there are three daughters and three sons, so a perfect fit for a fairytale. Unfortunately that would never work out well for me, as I am the eldest sister.

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While out walking near Gaucin in April I had an idea for a children’s book following on from my quest near Jimena. Well, another for the backburner. Someday I’d better start writing, not just talking or blogging about it. Spring is a beautiful time of year. The rain seems to have stopped (though, it always keeps sneaking back…well into June). The sky is blue but everything is still green or verdant, is it? Is that the word you use when green just will not do? Ah Gaucin, the hiding place of Carmen, that most famous of gypsies.

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On the way back we slowed down yet again to glance at the monstrosity of a palace that seems to have got past all planning laws. I wonder what fairy tale character is most likely to be hiding there. We stopped at the Genal river and dipped our feet. It wasn’t quite swimming weather yet.

The book’s introduction explains some of the influences of the magic tales on Russian traditions, such as Mishka the bear and Myshka the mouse, where a girl has to play blind man’s buff with a bear but a mouse helps her by taking her place. Even in today’s weddings the groom often has to search for his bride. By the way, I love the tradition of games at Russian (maybe all Slavic?) weddings. I thought about having some at ours, but it would have been too complicated to organise when guests aren’t used to it. Though I have to say, at this stage so many Irish people have been to Polish weddings and everybody seems to have a good time, maybe it might take off in the future?

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Mayday brought us a fairytale fog. A few years back the government in Gibraltar decided to break the tradition of the UK where you got the first Monday and give us the 1st instead. That’s great, I love bank holidays and all, but when it’s a Thursday and you just have so much to do at work you feel like maybe you aren’t going to enjoy it.

There was some walk going from Casares that I thought I might join. Sometimes when I’m, not sure if I want to do something I leave it to the last minute, maybe even beyond and if it’s still possible I feel like that’s a sign. Sometimes this works perfectly, sometimes I realise too late that I really wanted to do that thing (see Devotchka concert Dublin 2008….. what do you mean it’s sold out?)

So the way our house is built you can easily have no idea what the weather is like outside. It stays cold and dark until summer when you realise it isn’t cold anymore. I was dithering over breakfast, wondering what do, then I caught a glimpse of the fog outside, raced upstairs and saw that once again the fog was everywhere. I was so worried I’d miss it that I grabbed my camera (finally replaced the one stolen last year, yay!) and my bag and headed out. After taking a few around the town I realised I had missed the opportunity of going on the walk and didn’t mind too much, I was thinking of heading to the edge of town to try and get some good shots and then I realised there was only one place for it, so hiked up to the refugio and the amazing mirador.

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While I can tolerate insects as well as most (they’re obviously a very important part of the biosphere etc. etc. ) I just hate cockroaches and there were some humongous looking cockroach type creatures up there. I suppose In fairytale world the cockroach would offer me a wish in order to save his life and then would turn out to be a prince in disguise..

So I was back at the refugio to write. It is a very fairytale like setting itself, if more the woodcutter’s abode than the palace. I just had to stop every 5 minutes of so and take some more photos of the fog.

If you are kind and brave people (or various animals) will come together to help you. Look, we all know life isn’t like a fairytale, but sometimes there are lessons you can learn and if you are good to people I truly believe that they will mostly be good back.Of course in fairytales you will always get your just rewards, whereas in real life you may not be so lucky.

One of the tales is called ‘The Frog Princess’ We are well aware of the Frog Prince and as far as I knew the frog princess was just a fantastic Divine Comedy song. This was one of the many examples of a prince or princess trapped in the body of an animal until their true love sets them free.

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As enjoyable as the stories were sometimes the stories of the writers/collectors were more interesting. From Ivan Aleksandrovich Khudyakov, who was convicted of complicity in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander II and while in exile in Siberia complied a Yakut-Russian dictionary to Nadezhda Teffi, the Russian émigré in Paris.

While I enjoyed reading the fairytales a few at a time, there is no denying that they can get quite samey and that you can become immune to people getting killed at the drop of a hat (a bit like Game of Thrones, eh?) and also falling in love at first sight with little or no emotional resonance.

So the stories of Teffi came as some respite, in particular ‘The Dog’. It is only in the very vaguest sense a fairytale and has emotional resonance in spades.

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Coincidentally while writing this I came across a review of a newly published book on the works of Teffi (Subtly Worded, and Other Stories). Once I get home I’m going to seek it out. I’m beginning to realise that this ‘no book-buying lark’ is not going to work very well. On the one hand I feel I should be reading a larger portion of the books I already own, but on the other hand I know that whether I end up reading them or not my buying interesting oddball books will result in publishers continuing to publish interesting oddball books. And if I buy them in a bookshop as opposed to online I am, in my small way, keeping bookshops afloat. Sometimes independent, sometimes chains. I like independent bookshops but I like some chains too and I don’t think it’s evil to give business to a well-run bookshop like Waterstones (also have I mentioned Hodges Figgis is my favourite bookshop? Maybe once? Oh ok then…..) or Easons. Also I feel it’s payback for all the books I read for free in those shops while I was in college. Anyway loads of people are talking about unread books at the moment. Apparently it’s perfectly normal to have half of your books unread. There’s no shame in it.

I know I wasn’t finished on the subject of this book, but I think I will finish up anyway. Teffi was a high point. Russia/Ukraine has hit the headlines again and probably if you google Russian fairytales at the moment you will be more likely to read some wildly outrageous accusations about the perpetrators of MH17 than classic bedtime stories. I don’t feel like burying myself in the more traditional ones right now.

Fangirl

by Rainbow Rowell

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One book that I’ve found easy to lend to anybody (ok, let’s be honest, any girl, but not that that’s a bad thing) in the last few years has been ‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Rowell. It’s hard to explain what I liked so much about it, but it worked. The dialogue was zippy, It made me feel nostalgic for the late 90s, when email was still the best way to communicate and people wrote essays to each other. I don’t know the last time I wrote an essay length email that wasn’t work related. Well, I wrote superlong group emails from South America but I don’t really count those. When email was in vogue everybody complained that they were taking the place of letters. Now social networks and chats have taken the place of emails. You know that if Attachments took place in the present day it would be on a work based communicator. ‘This application is NOT to be used for personal communication!’ And it wouldn’t work as well.

Last month I went looking for a book as a present for a friend’s birthday. As she is a new mother I figured I’d try to look for something light but easy to read, snappy. I’ve complained about the lack of decent bookshops in Gibraltar before. I came across one I hadn’t noticed before and hoped there was some promise, but unfortunately it was hopeless. So I went to Casemates and the small selection of books upstairs. There I saw about 5 copies of Fangirl. Which made me happy, but since the girl whose birthday it was doesn’t even have a facebook account I thought reading a book about somebody who writes fanfiction might seem a bit weird to her. Or at least I’d prefer to read it first before giving it to her and there wasn’t time for that. If I’d seen a copy of Attachments I’d have snapped it up without hesitation. Also I really wanted to read this myself. I really wanted to read it myself. That was the main reason and I couldn’t justify buying two copies or contemplate buying it without the possibility of reading it straight away. So in the end I broke my bookbuying rule and bought a copy for myself and ‘Finding Colin Firth’ for my friend.

I’ve been disappointed by following the ‘this was written by the same author, therefore should be good’ train before, but this thankfully wasn’t one of them. I finished it in a day. Sometimes I wish I took longer with books I’m enjoying rather than just speeding through them, but I can always go back and reread, either in full of in part. I’ve done that a few times with Attachments which I still think I like better, but even so.

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Cath is a shy 18 year old about to start college, the same college as her twin sister Wren. She assumes that they will be sharing a room, but Wren thinks it’s time for them to break the cord. Cath has always found solace in writing fan fiction online and finds it easier to stay in her room updating her ‘Simon Snow’ novel rather than making friends or even talking to her roommate.

As I commuted to university in the first two years I didn’t have some of the immediate issues of Cath. I didn’t live in dorms and have to be away from my parents. I wasn’t really worried about college at all. I was 17 years old, happy to be finished secondary school and looking to embark on all the adventures that college would provide ‘Anne of the Island’ style. I did enjoy college, well except for my final year, but I think I expected too much. All through secondary school I was looking forward to college. Nothing could live up to that build up. Also, having to run for the last train/bus any time I was out did not help the ‘college experience’. It’s not an issue for somebody more sociable as there are always plenty of couches to be slept on, but sometimes asking seems too much. I don’t think I can ever be a completely spontaneous person, but even the ‘planned spontaneity’  I’ve developed over the years was not yet born.

 

At times I’ve been in an internet bubble so I felt an affinity with Cath, even if I’ve never read or written fan fiction. I do get how you can be invested in the lives of fictional characters and become unhappy with the direction an author takes so much so that you want to take matters into your own hands. It just isn’t something I’ve done, at least except in my head.

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Is it really bad to say that I skipped the fan fic excerpts in this book? Well not so much skipped as skimmed. I did note at some stage that her descriptions were obviously being influenced by what is going on in her life, but I just wasn’t very interested in the fan fiction except as a plot device. Simon Snow was obviously based on Harry Potter and while I’m sure I’ll read the last two books eventually I haven’t got round to it yet. I did see all the films except the last one, I think I just lost interest in the end. My Viennese roommate introduced me to the books back in 2002, as I’d heard of them but wasn’t caught up in the hype. I read all four that Spring, then only had a year to wait for the next one, which I read every waking non working moment, even on my walk from Cabra to Grand Canal Dock and back. I don’t think there was any particular reason why I didn’t read the next one. I can see that it came out the summer I bought my house, just before I went on my Russian adventure. At the time I felt I couldn’t afford the holiday but I’d already bought the flights so decided I’d just do it on the cheap. And maybe this meant not buying full price books, especially when somebody else was bound to have a copy to lend later on. I can never understand people paying full price for Dan Brown or 50 Shades of Grey when they will turn up en masse in a second hand bookshop a few months later.

So maybe I’ve missed something there, but when I was reading the ‘Simon Snow’ excerpts I wanted more description of what was going on between Cath and her ‘boyfriend’ and looked forward to the interjection every few paragraphs.

But really that was only a minor point.

I suppose this might be just an Irish/American cultural difference, but I can’t imagine anybody in their late teens/early twenties calling somebody their boyfriend if they don’t even kiss each other. I get that Cath is fragile and does not even feel ready and has some issues she needs to work through, but it just seems weird for me to describe somebody as her boyfriend or that she’s dating  somebody for months without anything more than a kiss on the cheek.

Also while reading the Simon Snow sections I found it difficult to immerse myself when the Hogwarts equivalent is called Watford. I’ve never been there but in my mind Watford is a very nondescript, possibly industrial suburb of London and the base of a company I used to work for. I could be wrong but I always see it as being similar to Slough, where ‘The Office’ was based.      

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At first when I read about Cath’s reluctance to go to the dining hall I felt it was a bit silly, I never had any issues going to the dining hall on my own in college. But then I did remember the time before starting my job at the Posthotel in Mittenwald the summer after 1st year. I didn’t eat anything before my first morning as I’d only brought Swiss Francs to get the train from Zurich and my Deutschmarks were in traveller’s cheques; not much use at the weekend. I was never so happy as when we stopped working one hour in , in order to have breakfast. My meals were included but I didn’t know the times and was too shy to ask. So I suppose I can’t really comment.

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Love Library: Well we didn’t have a library called that but the Lecky Library was called Club Lecky, because it was often a bit of a meeting point and people were not too concerned about noise levels. If you wanted serious study you went somewhere else. But I guess the real ‘Love Library’ would be the stacks, or it seems like it should be. I went there to read novels which were not needed by anybody but had been received because of the copyright and were held there temporarily before being moved offsite.

My own favourite library was the beautiful 1937 reading room, now renamed the ‘postgraduate reading room’, not for lowly undergrads any more!

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Cath receives a call from her high school boyfriend Abel and knows it means news. I don’t know why, but I never really got into the habit of just calling people for a chat. I think that might be one reason why I’m not very good at the long distance friendship thing. I don’t Skype people often enough. The invention of the text message came as a blessing to me. So I tend to assume that when somebody calls out of the blue, not a prearranged Skype session, that something big has happened. Somebody has got engaged, pregnant……or died.

Regarding writing on a laptop or writing longhand. It’s great to have Word to be able to organise your thoughts and what you have written before but I’m not able to bang out my thoughts and keep going. As Dave Gorman said in his googlewhack adventure, it’s really difficult to concentrate on writing when you have access to three billion pages of the internet.

So even though it takes longer, I prefer to write out my thoughts in some internet free zone and type them up when I got the chance.

Plus, how can you trust technology? Sure, I could lose my notebook, or it could burn, but in the same way, maybe one day my computer will crash, WordPress will decide to delete this site, gmail will fall to the wayside, hey I’ve had an excite/campus/oxygen account in the past. All gone! Or you save something on a format such as a floppy disk or a CD and then realise that you have no way to access these any more.

In a similar way with a Kindle you don’t own your books, you can’t lend to any friends. And I have hardly printed any photos since I went digital at the late time of 2007. a lot of my photos are stored on my bust up laptop. I really hope some genius can access them somehow.

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‘To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one’. I’d say that was true of me growing up, it’s just that it was not fantasy worlds I wanted to live in, but Prince Edward Island or the prairie, not quite fictional, but the world of the books. Cath tells her creative writing professor that she would find it two difficult to write her own fantasy world from scratch.

‘Most writers don’t. We write about the worlds we already know’

I mentioned previously that I admired the writer of Game of Thrones for the universe he has created but I wouldn’t ever have the desire to create anything of the sort myself. Some great writers manage to write about things that are so distant to them and some are great even while they only write the familiar. Personally I always find it strange when a foreigner writes a book set in Ireland or with an Irish lead character, something is always off. Unless that writer has lived a long time in Ireland. For the same reason (and talking hypothetically here) while I’d like to send my hypothetical characters to Belarus for example, I don’t think I could ever write a Belarusian except as a supporting character. I have plenty of friends there but I only spent a year in Minsk and could never dream of being really able to get inside the soul of a Belarusian. One friend was a little bit insulted by what I’d written in the ‘Egg in my Soup’ post. I can only imagine the outrage if I tried to pawn off….but then again I did have an idea at some stage, set in Crimea, with no Irish people….but it was a children’s book and I think children are still not as clearly shaped by their nation.  Also I was planning my (hypothetical) research trip there, this doesn’t seem very likely now. Well we’ll see, I may change my mind some time and regret posting this.

I’ve just been to a talk by Javier Cercas, now if ever there is somebody who can use what he knows as a starting point and twist it in directions most wouldn’t consider, where you try to figure out at what point fact morphs into fiction.

So I won’t go any further into the plot because I’d rather leave it to any of you to enjoy for yourselves.

In case I haven’t made it clear I was so happy to be reading about characters you usually don’t come across in books except as sidekicks? I’d happily recommend this one to anyone even if they are as far from these types as I can imagine. If people like to read they’ll read good books none of that matters.

I think my favourite scene is the ‘are you rooting for me’ one. Perfect rom com movieness.

I loved reading this now, but I think I would have loved to read this or something similar as a teenager starting out in adult life, it might have helped a little with the message I’m still learning in my mid-30s. It’s ok to be yourself. You don’t have to fit into the norm. That doesn’t mean that who you are stays in one place and you really do have to move outside your comfort zone regularly if you want to grow, but don’t aim to just be society’s norm.

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Postscript

So since writing the above we were talking about our forthcoming move back to Dublin and all the things we would have to take and some things we might leave. I mentioned my old laptop and that I’d like to get somebody to look at it and see if they could salvage all the old photos on it.

Guilty looks.

‘Ummm, I think I dumped that last year.’

WHAT!!!!!!???

Words were exchanged, to say the least. All our South America photos! Just gone!

Thank God for picasa and facebook; at least I have some decent middling quality versions. I know you’re supposed to backup but….ok, I didn’t. So yeah, I’m an internet addict with old fashioned technophobia. I’ll have to be more careful in the future. And maybe it’s about time I started printing photos regularly. And maybe it’s about time I invest in a physical wedding album.

A Clash of Kings

 

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By George RR Martin

It may be no surprise to learn that fantasy is not a favourite genre of mine. I don’t have any particular problem with it, I could just never get into it, to the extent as so many other people. I read The Lord of the Rings one month before the films came out, back in 2001 when I was living in Vienna. I knew I was going to watch the films so I had to read the books. I’d tried and failed before. One helpful tip: skip the songs!

Living away from Anglo/American/Irish TV you lose track of what the hyped series are. Occasionally you see mentions on Facebook and you read articles about different series or see what is winning awards but you do lose touch. We did try to watch Spanish TV for a while but the connection stopped working and we weren’t really that bothered to look into it. Plus the colour on the TV started going and everything looked green. I was sad to hear about the demise of Television Without Pity, which was great for reading up on series and figuring out if they’re worth the effort. I guess one way or another I’ve been using it for almost 14 years.

You end up depending on word of mouth. One friend in Gibraltar really gushed about Game of Thrones. But she also couldn’t get into ‘Arrested Development’ (the original, not the latest season) so we weren’t sure if we could trust her recommendation.

One day on imdb I noticed that the screenwriter was David Benioff and that intrigued me. One of my favourite books of recent years was ‘City of Thieves’ and I’m really amazed they haven’t made that into a movie yet. It doesn’t sound particularly promising: two boys are tasked with finding a dozen eggs during the siege of Leningrad, but just read it – it leaps off the page. Every now and then I google it ‘city of thieves movie’ but nothing much seems to be happening.

Anyway I thought ‘well, this could be worth checking out. My husband likes his fantasy series well enough but he didn’t seem to have any on the go at that moment so I ordered the first DVD and book on Amazon.
When ‘Friends’ video boxsets were first sold, I remember thinking ‘who would pay for something they could watch on TV for free?’ and considering the never-ending Friends reruns I thinks this is still valid. However the growing pile of boxsets in the corner of our sitting room shows how wrong I was. When I returned to Vienna in the Spring of 2002 I was super-addicted to 24 and a few other shows and I actually left a taping schedule with my little sister. Oh the shame. I think I even sent her a text message reminder the first week or two. When I returned I asked around to see if anybody had tapes, then finally caved and bought  the boxset. On video. Neither my parents nor my brother, who I was living with at the time, owned a DVD player. As you can see, we’re not really early adopters. This might be one of the reasons I’m so attached to my real books.

It was the year in Belarus sans TV that tamed my TV addiction. I still enjoy it immensely as those piles of boxsets prove, but at least I’m not slave to the schedules. My husband enjoyed the Song of Ice and Fire books and continued to buy them. There was some disappointment when he thought there was still one more to go, but while book 5 was often split in 2 he had actually read the full thing in one volume. We watched all three series. I read Book 1 over the holidays and found it enjoyable but felt like I was watching the TV series over again. I would have continued with Book 2 but it had disappeared.  Over Christmas I found it at his parents’ house, where it seems it had been since May, judging by the Boarding pass being used as a bookmark. It doesn’t matter how many official bookmarks you buy, you always end up using random objects for bookmarks, reminding you of when it was you (or somebody else) last picked up the book. I love discovering these in older books. The best treasure trove was my mother’s Complete Works of Shakespeare from her time at UCD. A ticket for some party. (30!. 8 til late!) A note from a friend who had passed by her desk in the library. A funny postcard. You don’t get those in a kindle.

I used to be very careful with my books, no earmarks or creases. And yet a book needs to live. The fact that it is no longer as it was in the shop is a good sign. I love that too, in second hand books, where you see the name and the date and try to imagine the lives it has touched. I should really start signing mine.

So Game of Thrones is back on TV and all the publicity is in full swing. There is a certain amount of pride because a large part is filmed in Ireland and there are also plenty of Irish actors. I have to admire the author for the universe he has created, but would it be really bad to compare the writing with something like chicklit? It passes time, but doesn’t really touch you. I mean I suppose there is some fun in the idea that literally anybody could die, but after a while you stop feeling affinity for the characters as you think, why should I care for this one, most likely they’ll be dead next chapter. But how and ever, I’m really looking forward to watching this series. And I guess at some stage I’ll keep reading the books too, though I’ll take a break before starting the next one.