Month: January 2016

The strange case of POSH Mark Haddon…

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Part of my new found ‘freedom’ is the ability to find bargains ( both cost me 50p which at 25p each makes it the cheapest pair of books I bought all week) and secondly having the time to actually read the damn things…

So not only are they like buses but I have read both ..the novel yesterday and the poems today although I did not read every poem to the end. I have not read anything else by Haddon which not surprising as he published oodles of kids books and just three ‘adult’ novels including this one…which more a crossover all ages job.

First impressions? Well very cleanly written and pacy as you would expect from a children’s writer. A couple of token f-words and one c word to I suppose tick the ‘adult’ box. The story is fairly innocuous ( will not spoil it ) but the dog stays dead. The interweaving of Conan Doyle and what seems like a Brian Cox series on the galaxies is deftly handled and the illustrations are amusing. As I am not a mathematician I did not check the sums at the end but the Aspergers trait of having to have it as an addendum was a nice touch as was the list of various locations ..Sunderland, Caracas, Swindon etc from throughout the novel a ice touch towards the end.

I enjoyed it but on reflection it did feel a bit like an exercise that pretty much wrote itself once the prescription written. It also felt like it owed a lot to Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole too……only with more facts. Whether it totally accurate re. Aspergers I not sure. It certainly reminded me of high end autism that I have worked with so giving the benefit of the doubt there.

It seems churlish but there were some bits I not so happy about although name-checking my home town as Didcot Parkway was a nice touch and puts Haddon in a small club of writers who have mentioned Didcot in their writing..which includes myself, Amy Clampitt, Marina Warner and Javier Marias..I kid you not…

( It is also 17 minutes on a Great Western 125 from Swindon to Didcot so full marks for accurate train spotting there Mr Haddon although I doubt you spent your weekends trainspotting on Didcot platform like me your family were probably in the Algarve.)

No what I felt a little uneasy with was the characterisation of the ‘adults’ i.e. they haven’t got any..character that is. The token ‘working-class’ father routine and ‘smelling’ was a little hard to believe. I was right.

A swift trawl of web soon established that Mr. Haddon has an MA in English Literature from Merton Oxford ( That means he got a B.A. they give you an MA automatically because they reckon it equivalent of other Unis BAs ..yeah bollocks) and previously at Uppingham Public School..so his experience of work probably from a bus window….like fellow Uppingham alumni like Stephen Fry , Rick Stein and Johhny Vaughan..a toff who also adopted the vowels of the poor for broadcasting…. we not talking heavy labour here. A smart move in career terms though for both.

So he is erudite, smart and lives in Oxford in a nice big house with his wife who a Fellow which in Oxford means silver spoon waiting ( I know I served there). In other words he hasn’t got a care in the world.

The novel is ok but the poetry is pitiful….a poor man’s Armitage. The Oxonian/Uppingham man comes to the fore so his first (and so far last) poetry tome includes various references to Greek Gods and Horace…as well as some utter bollocks disguised as prose poetry which gives Armitage’s recent explorations a run for its money in terms of lightweight and fatuous.

Sorry but if Poetry Review published this then it must have been because he so jolly nice and knew someone. It would not have been published in the real world but then Oxbridge publishing isn’t the real world. Their recent appointment as Professor of Poetry proves that.

So having trashed the poems what about the kid’s stuff..probably great..for kids…end of.

After this experience I have been reading C.K.Williams for some adult entertainment.

Cleans the palette wonderfully old boy.

Well I Never….until now…..chocks away Henry..

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The past two weeks have been both liberating and slightly scary. Having jumped ship so to speak from the Cruise liner NTU ( currently headed for Corporate Tax Haven Islands with a monetising Captain whilst flying a pure blue Tory ensign) I have had a few days to ponder what next…

I currently have two phd applications in one of which I have written off and cannot comment on until I given some more information but I not expecting much. The second I much more optimistic about BUT I have to factor in that at my age I may not be successful. Organisations run on ‘outcomes’ and that means long term outcomes from an academic career when done a PhD. At 57 I may not have so much time as others. If that the case then my last PhD application will be done and dusted by Easter and time to move on….to ..what…

Life post-Academic may be beckoning and it quite exciting to meet someone like Henry Normal last night who not tainted by the academic environment. So there is water on Mars then…at the moment I feel like Major Tom having been stuck in a Tin Can for 8 years. I will not be going back to academic teaching..I done that..it over. I would love to do a really good PhD then become a researcher..a reader say..but that it with Academia. HE teaching no.

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It was interesting to talk to Henry Normal who had gone the exact opposite way to me. Started writing poetry early then got involved in TV and then started writing again recently following his father’s death. I wrote fairly steadily through the 90’s but the Naughties were tainted by the diagnosis and subsequent deaths in 2004 of first my father and then my mother in 2012 from cancers. That pretty much ended my relationship with Oxfordshire too..symbolically the Salt pamphlet ‘Last Farmer’ went in my mother’s coffin. Done and Dusted….

Until now. I have finally thrown off the mantle of Academic Teacher which I never felt entirely happy with. Especially as the Progressive Rightists Corporate Zealots ripped the heart and soul out of the system and impose what is fast becoming a training regime staffed entirely by a compliant workforce.

I have started to think positively about writing again…and narrative..how it comes out I no idea but at least I have time to think about it. Even the aborted NTU MA was too precious and compressed to really feel able to get on with it….

I had simply exchanged one outcome regime for another..only this time on the wrong side of the fence.

So if there is anything poetry wise left in the tank it will probably happen now.

Chocks away like the early flyers above……I may fly.. I may crash …

but at least I holding the control stick this time.

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