Sydney White (2007)

Finally, I’ve found a film that my boyfriend refused to watch!

The story is loosely modelled on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. A more detailed explanation is that Sydney goes to uni (or college, as she probably calls it) and tries to join the sorority that her dead mum was in. Sadly, her dead mum’s sorority are a right bunch of bitches (maybe they were nice in her mum’s day), so she ends up having to stay with seven weirdos who live nearby.

The bitch sorority and the fraternity which is a bit linked with them decide to try and knock down the house of the weirdos to make way for a country club or something, and it’s up to Syds to save the day.

I love Amanda Bynes. I’m not sure why exactly; maybe just that she played my favourite character in Hairspray. She seems to be having some kind of LiLo style breakdown at the moment though, with a string of driving offences, and now a massive cheek piercing. Oh, and she’s given up acting and moved to New York.

I find the concept of Sororities quite confusing. Are they all as horrible as they seem in films? Is it important to have one bitch sorority to keep the horrible girls out of the others? Deep, deep confusion. There were other questions, but I’ve forgotten them.

This is not a good film. It’s really not. However, it’s a very watchable way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Irish Ghost Stories by Padraic O’Farrell

When I was young I used to devour ghost stories. I’d stay with my auntie and uncle a couple of times a month and hunt through their book shelves for my cousin’s abandoned books about hauntings. I’d get so scared that I couldn’t sleep for days; sometimes even now I have to take a running leap into bed to be sure I avoid the monsters underneath. I think this has a lot to do with my recurring insomnia.

We’re a superstitious family, and ghost sightings are not unheard of. My grannie saw one once, and most of the houses I’ve lived in have been considered haunted by someone (a crazy neighbour and my stepdad). I became so convinced that the spirit of a dead rapist lived under the stairs in my old flat that I think Ben agreed to move just to stop having to listen to me worrying about the rapist grabbing my feet.

Nowadays, I tend to avoid the scarier stuff. An ex took me to see Saw II at the cinema and within five minutes I was nearly crying and wanted to leave. I don’t even remember what happened. I think it was just that little robot on the tricycle that did it. I’m getting a bit tense thinking about it now. What if the rapist has a tricycle? Jesus Christ!

I’d been putting off this book for a while, worried that it would be too scary for me. I was surprised to find that it was actually not that kind of ghost story book. I’m just as skittish as ever, so it must be that the book isn’t scary. I can see no other explanation. It’s more like reading an account of a haunting in a magazine than reading a ghost story. It’s a journalistic account of supernatural activity. It’s also very Irish, which I like. The author has also compiled books about Irish legends, Irish toasts, Irish superstitions and other Irish customs, so I suppose it makes sense that he’s gone about this in a dry non-fiction way. Although interesting and very well researched, I came away a little disappointed that it didn’t actually scare me at all.

Now I’m off to worry about whether the rapist under the stairs followed us to the new flat, where he could possibly be hiding, and whether he’s planning to induce me into saying Bloody Mary three times while looking in a mirror.

James Bond: You Only Live Twice (1967)

Finally! After this film we get a mini-break from Sean Connery’s reign of terror!

This time 007 heads off to Japan and feels a bit tall and silly, I imagine. On the plus side, he gets to hang out with the Japanese secret service’s special ninja force, which must have been pretty cool.

He’s not just there to have fun though, oh no! He’s there to investigate some spacejackings before the US and the USSR get themselves so worked up they nuke each other.

Directed by Roald Dahl, Bond gets killed off, becomes Japanese and gets married. But then it’s down to work and time to get all up inside Blofeld’s volcano.

While I’m getting a little tired of S.P.E.C.T.R.E, I think this is the best Bond yet. Setting it in Japan gave it quite a fresh and interesting feel.

Introducing Alfie

This is Alfie. A friend of a friend found him in her garden and by a series of happy coincidences, he ended up living with Ben and I. I think his favourite thing about living with us is the food which we provide.
It’s quite difficult to cook anything with him around. Today for example, I unwrapped some bread rolls, turned to get the cheese and found him running away with a roll in his mouth when I turned back. Not for the first time.
There is very little this cat won’t eat. We try to be quite careful with his diet, but he’s not having any of it. The only thing I’ve ever seen him turn down was a tube of malt stuff which was meant for kittens. In the end, my friend and I ended up trying it to see what the problem was (we were drunk, it tasted like Christmas, don’t judge us). 
He’s recently started to wake me up at 4.30 in the morning because he thinks this sounds like the perfect time for breakfast. After two weeks of this, I’d reached breaking point and we are now the proud owners of a timed food dispenser. This morning I woke up under my own steam. It was wonderful. 
The electricity had stopped working and it was freezing, which was less wonderful and another story. But at least I didn’t find out at 4.30 am.
Here are some of his finest feeding moments:
Meet my good friends Ben and Jerry
Leftovers, you say?
A new low – trying to eat remains out of the dishwasher

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

In a remote part of Iceland, a young man joins a boat to fish for cod, but when a tragedy occurs at sea he is appalled by his fellow fishermen’s cruel indifference. Lost and broken, he leaves the settlement in secret, his only purpose to return a book to a blind old sea captain beyond the mountains. Once in the town he finds he is not alone in his solitude: welcomed into a warm circle of outcasts, he begins to see the world with new eyes.

My Icelandic friend credits this book with getting him back into reading again. To celebrate, he bought a copy of it in English and has been handing it out to colleagues to read for about a year now. The Romanian had it for six months, and then I had it for another six months, so it’s going pretty well, really! He was worried we’d all find it too Icelandic and poetic. Fortunately, I am quite positive towards most things Icelandic. It’s tough not to be really: 

– They don’t have proper surnames. When discussing the author, the Icelandics refer to him as Jón Kalman, as if he’s their mate. If you’re wondering, they take the name of their father and add a -son or -dottir to the end of it, depending on whether they’re a son or daughter. 

– They have a website which I like to call the fuckbook. I don’t know what its real name is. You type in two names, and it tells you how distantly you’re related, and shows you your family trees up until they combine. It’s an important part of the dating process – you don’t want to end up shagging your niece, do you? Note: maybe if people had the same surname, it would be easier to avoid this happening. 

– There is a penis museum in Reykjavik. It used to be in Húsavík, but the owner died and his son wanted to live in the capital, so he moved his museum there. There used to be a penis statue on a roundabout in Húsavík, but that seems to have disappeared and nobody has told me where. 

We might not need words to survive; on the other hand, we do need words to live. 

Back to the book. It’s very Icelandic and very poetic, but this is no bad thing. I put off reading it for six months because it looked like it would be heavy going, and it seemed like a winter book. It is definitely a winter book. However, although kind of heavy, it’s still very readable. 

The giant Gvendur so lucky to have his own bed yet it’s too small for him, you’re two sizes too big for the world, Bárður said once, and Gvendur became so sad that he needed to step away for a moment. 

There is a strong sense of community within the book, which is helped along not just by the writing, but also by the use of first names only, and the narration in the plural. In other books this can feel pretentious and irritating, but it works beautifully here. I presume the ‘we’ in question is the the other outsiders in the village, but this is never fully cleared up. 

The cod have no interest in words, not even adjectives such as splendid.

This is the first part of a trilogy, and, to be frank, there is no sense of closure at the end. It leaves you wanting more of what is at heart, a very simple story. 

She has a high forehead and there is something in her expression that we can’t grasp. Toughness or coldness, arrogance or distance, derision or mistrust, maybe a touch of all of these, and her freckles confuse us a bit as well. 

If I can enjoy a book about Icelandic fishermen and cod, then it’s truly a sign of how beautifully it’s written. I’m ashamed that such a wonderful book has sat on my bookshelf for so long. Once I’ve finished the other 70something books on my shelf, I will get hold of the other books in the series. 

Bárður and the boy had leaned back a bit and looked at the sparkling sky that makes us humble and powerful at once and seems sometimes to speak to us.