I am the grit in the gears, the missing bolt, I am the poker of sticks into spokes.
I like to know how things work, but sometimes when I take them apart and rebuild them, I have a few pieces left over.
I am a man, so I tend to leave reading the instructions until after it goes wrong.
And like all men I have a comprehensive mental map of the world and never need to ask directions.
I never get lost, only sometimes I'm late, or end up in the wrong place entirely.
It's what we do.
I absconded from the jobs I should have been doing on saturday morning.. I had a few groceries to buy, and that could have been done within moments of home, but I lost control of the vehicle I was driving and before I knew what was happening it had taken me out of town, onto the narrow lanes between the fields. At that point, well, I gave up, I could have yelled at it to turn around, and go home, but I just gave in, and sat back to see where it would take me.
Nobody explained this to me, I've always had manual cars, but when you get an automatic, well, it seems they just decide for themselves...
So before I knew it I was about ten miles from home, in Wetherby. And in Wetherby there are a lot of places to buy books, and books are to me what shoes are to women. I can't help myself.
So I bought a few books. No, only a reasonable number, no more than I could carry in a large shoulder-bag...
Then I was feeling a little hungry, so I dropped in to the Wetherby Whaler fish'n'chip shop, for chips, scraps, curry-sauce, onion-rings and a barm-cake, and down the road to the river-path. The river was carrying last week's storm water, and was quite busy, so I left it to do its job, and sat on a bench, browsing my new books, and eating.
Not a bad place to pause.
The bridge has seen a fair bit of history. One of britain's major north-south routes passes here. Nowadays, the main highway bypasses the town to the east, but for a couple of thousand years, if you were travelling from London to Scotland or vice-versa, you'd cross the river Wharfe here. The Roman legions did. The Emperor Constantine did.
There were other crossings, of course, roman forts abounded, but this route, this route became known as "The Great North Road". Yes, there are other Great North roads in the world, in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, but all of them are subsequent to this one.
Back in the early 1200s, Wetherby had become a stopping place, a little town. There was already a weir on the river, and a mill, milling corn. (not maize, we didn't have maize back then)
There was no bridge. You had to get in there and wade. Not too difficult in a dry summer, maybe, but not so good the rest of the year. Both north and south of the river there would have been inns, because you might just have to spend the night, or a few days, or weeks, waiting for the river crossing to be passable.
Back in 1233, the Archbishop of York, Walter de Grey, decided there ought to be a bridge there. But who'd pay for such a costly edifice? not the church, it had to be the people, the travellers, the noblemen, the merchants. They all had a vested interest in the crossing, and a bridge would secure the little town's fortunes, in much the same way as cities these days look to airports to ensure trade and income.
Some money was raised, but not enough, until wily Archbishop Walter came up with the great idea that anybody paying over a certain amount could apply to Walter to have all his sins up to date forgiven, expunged, forgotten. After that the money came rolling in, stone quarries either side of the river rang to the sound of hammers and wedges, and a handsome bridge arose.
Surely, though, I hear you say, not that bridge there? I mean, it looks old, but not that old?
Well, yes and no. What you see here is quite young. After a flood damaged the original bridge, it was repaired and the roadway widened, from ten, to twenty feet wide, in 1773. There's some more recently repaired stone-facing since.
Then in 1826 the bridge was widened again, this time on the downstream side. You can also see where the original rise and fall of the roadway was levelled out, and a newer parapet made.
Still, if you go down to the water, and look carefully....
You can still see Walter de Grey's first bridge, tucked into the centre of the current edifice.
Normally, this is a quiet riverside stroll, with people sitting on the benches to watch the world go by, a quiet route from the riverside car park to the town centre. However, as it often does, the river has reclaimed the nothernmost arch for a while. but here it's peaceful enough for the ducks, finding shelter from the rushing river in the next arch over.
Oh. I fibbed. The car's not really automatic. It was me doing the running-away all the time.
Life, on a scale of stresses, one to six, where one is not very much stress, and six is absolutely too much.... currently the stress reading is at about fifteen, the safety gauge is screwed down tight, and steam is leaking at the seams. Healthwise, not so good either, and my doctor says "Avoid stress", then laughs, because she's stressed too.
My mother's condition is going rapidly downhill, and I regularly get calls from the alarm monitoring centre, and drop everything, rush over to find she's fallen, can't get up.
She seems to be getting good at whacking her head on some random hard object as she goes too. She won't eat enough, so she gets weaker, then her balance gets worse.... it's all a downward spiral. Her memory is falling apart faster and faster. My brother has at last stepped up to take a bit of the load, and my sister's just been and stayed a week with her, which gave me several nights of uninterrupted sleep. Until the five a.m. ambulance call.
So it's nice to just do nothing. I picked up Audrey Niffenegger's second novel "Her Fearful Symmetry" (first one was "The Time Traveller's Wife") in a secondhand bookstore this morning, and enjoyed the luxury of sitting down to read, with nobody demanding my time. Well, there's always something else I really ought to be doing, but today I sat down to read, and read I did, until I ran out of book, 485 pages later, I enjoyed it. I even recommend it. The Amazonites tend to give it a bit of a poor grade. Well, to hell with them, I say. It entertained me for about three whole hours, so it can't be all bad.
If you read "The Time Traveller's Wife", you'd know it wasn't likely to be a simple, straightforward, single-string story. And story it is, that's all, it doesn't need to be overanalysed and searched for hidden allegory. Just a story. With a ghost.
I'll rate it as five stars.
P.s. (a later addition). I wanted to link to the book, so, of course, I ended up reading reviews. now, reviews always interest me, because I contrast them with my own experience. I didn't link to the publisher's or the author's blurb, because, hey, what's a publisher going to say about a product it's trying to sell? Or what's an author going to say?
So that leads us to Amazon and other sites where reviewers can say good or bad.
Now, my problem, if I try to tell you how I felt about the book, is that I can't do that without perhaps revealing things you need to find out for yourself.
Elsewhere, I recently read someone's thoughts on movie trailers. How in the past, a trailer's purpose was to intrigue you with glimpses and hints, so you just had to see the movie and find out what it was about, but now, the trailer seems to be a pastiche of all the major scenes, the best and the brightest, so when you go see the movie... there's nothing left. You've already seen the bits that are exciting, and so it feels as if you're just sitting through the b-grade stuff that wasn't good enough for the trailer.
That's how it can be with book reviews too.
Here's the spoiler: twins, ghosts, and a cemetery. So there.
It seem that readers and reviewers are complaining that parts of the plot were far-fetched and hard to believe. What a surprise. The author's previous book was called "The Time Traveller's Wife". Even if you have not read it, nor seen the movie, you can not buy the current tome without being exposed to the blurb about its predecessor.
So if you expect "Her Fearful Symmetry" to be thoroughly true to everyday reality, then I'd say you're pretty stupid. People complain about characters' behaviour, about the various denouements, say "Well that's unlikely, people just wouldn't really do that." Well, in my experience, people in real life do all sorts of bizarre things that seem illogical and make no sense. That's actually not magic reality, it's real life. Sometimes people will do unpredicted things, and there will be no explanation. That's just how it is. Why then must we expect an author to explain everything, to leave us sure of the reasons for each character's actions?
Why should we expect a tidy ending? Do we really need an Agatha Christie-like scene at the end where all the characters are gathered together in the drawing-room of a country house, and a some detective genius walks us through all the clues we should have picked up earlier in the book, and explains why each character behaved in the way they did? Do we need a happy ending?
I'll say, for my part, that I write, in my mind, as I read books, alternative scenarios. This book was no exception. I'd have liked characters to behave differently, make different decisions. I'd like to be able to step in there, part way along, and nudge things in a different direction. But this was Audrey Niffenegger's book, not mine, she gets to call the shots, and I read them and have to accept her direction. If I want a book where all the characters behave in a way I like, where the plot develops as I wish, I'll have to write it myself.
Until then, I'm reading other people's stories, and should respect their choices. I can like or dislike it, but I have no right to say "She should have....".
Just like I read blogs. Even my favourite bloggers post things I won't like, and I'll post things my readers won't like.
If you don't like it, spit it out, go get something else.
I also watched The Social Network. Now that was a waste of my time. I'm still no wiser as to Facebook's
I assume the people involved in making it thought the movie to be a worthy task.
IMDB gives it 8.2 out of ten stars. The reviews there make me wonder if I watched the same thing. To me it was just a collage of cliched scenes that we've all seen before in oh so many other movies, put together to tell another story we've heard before, student geek gets dotcom idea, abuses friendships on the way, picks up sharks and sucker fish, ends up rich but sad.
Thought provoking? No. Emotionally charged? No. A visual treat? No. Great drama? No.
I also spent a while watching a river today, watching brown floodwater slide over a weir, and roil in chaos. That time was better used.
If you watched this movie and judged your time and money well spent, please do tell me why.