Book Review- The Stolen White Elephant by Mark Twain

This is one of those £1 Penguin classics, that offer a cheap chance to read classic authors without having to commit to read an entire book.  I’m not sure it entirely works however.  This was my first Mark Twain, and I didn’t find it particularly mind blowing, but maybe you need to sit down with a novel of his to ‘get’ him?

The Stolen White Elephant is the main and best story in this little collection, with a couple of others just there to fill up the extra space I think.  The Stolen White Elephant is the story told by a man who was to deliver a gift of the eponymous white elephant from the King of Siam to the Queen of England- because that’s how things worked back then I guess….

Twain is renowned as a ‘humorist’ which is an interesting tag, not funny but humorous…There was only one exchange really that seemed amusing to me:

‘He would not care if they were fresh of not; at a single meal he would eat five ordinary men.’

‘Very good; five men; we will put that down.   What nationalities would he prefer?’

‘He is indifferent about nationalities.  He prefers acquaintances, but is not prejudiced against strangers.’

So if that broke you out in raucous laughter than maybe this is for you.  But it’s hard to recommend as it’s just a short story.



Film/Analogue Photos of Liverpool

I used my Canon Ixus camera, which is an electronic film camera whilst I was in Liverpool for a weekend in May.  The Canon Ixus is very compact in size and easy to carry around but it’s a noisy little bugger.  It makes that classic camera noise when it takes a picture, and whirs for about 10 mins when it’s rewinding the film.  The film is APS 35mm, which is super easy to put in but pricey, hard to get hold of, and not that many places can develop it.

Above is a photo of the sculpture room in the Walker Art Gallery, and below is across the Mersey in New Brighton.  We went to a little Bank Holiday fair next to the sea front which was nice.  The grainy quality of the film, and that it’s over exposed does make it seem like it was taken in the 1980’s though.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Above is the sea at New Brighton, and this shot is really grainy but you can make out the wind turbines on the horizon.  I’m not sure what makes it so grainy, I would imagine it’s the film as APS is no longer made so it’s all pretty old now.  And below is a snap of some of the runners in the Liverpool Marathon that was taken place that weekend.  I don’t think it really captures the energy of the moment though, they look like they could be walking.  But you can see some of the beautiful and interesting buildings in Liverpool in the background.

Noise of Time by Julian Barnes- Book Review

I read (and reviewed) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a few months back, and really enjoyed it. I admit Barnes was one of those authors I had sort of heard of, and I wasn’t sure how old he was or whether he was still writing.  The Sense of an Ending was published in 2012 but, as I said in my review at the time, I assumed it was much older than that.  So I was pleased to discover he was still publishing, and I picked up The Noise of Time (2016) without really looking into what it was about too much.  I mean, it’s about 180 pages long which is the most important thing!

I have had a really reading slump. So it took me a long time to get around to reading it.   That’s not the books fault, I just kept getting distracted by my phone, and tired by work.  My copy was hanging around in my bag for several months so it’s quite bashed up.  But I’m back on it now, and got through this book in a day.

The Noise of Time

Like The Sense of an Ending, this book is a rambling journey through a man’s memories.  Although in this case it is not a middle aged English man looking back at youthful misadventures and their painful consequences.  But a Russain, Dmitri Dmitriyevich living in Soviet Russia, and the harshly enforced political whims.  In fact, Dmitriyevich is a composer who music is loved, reviled, reformed, and loved once more.  His full name isn’t given until later in the book, when I thought ‘oooh I’ve heard of him’.  Given that I am almost completely ignorant of life in the Soviet Union (apart from what I’ve read in Under The Frog), and composers I still didn’t know what was happening. I recommend not looking it up, and wandering into the book as clueless as me, then googling it all afterwards.

Barnes gives up the story from Dmitriyevich’s point if view, and although he does question his own actions from time to time, as we all do, he also usually dejectedly justifies them, as we all do.  The story is, in many ways, him battling his own conscious.  The jury seems to still be out on the real life individual, was he actually championing the glory of Mother Russia in his music?  But Barnes has clearly decided to paint our protagonist as begrudgingly reacting to political pressure exerted on him by Power.  It starts with him waiting by the lift in his apartment block, with his pregnant wife sleeping in their apartment, waiting to be taken away to ‘The Big House’.  All this because because his latest opera has been derided as ‘more muddle than music’ meaning unpatriotic.

I don’t know enough about Russia, now or then, to know if all the details are correct. For example, the annoying habit of everyone’s names changing or abbreviating and confusing me.  But these are the books where I learn about the Soviet Union (why didn’t I get properly taught about this in school?), and what life was like, backed up by the stuff I saw in the Solidarity museum in Gdansk, Poland.  Although, they would also have you believe that the Solidarity movement single handedly brought down the Soviet Union…

I enjoyed this book.  The style may not be to everyone’s taste.  The jumbled narrative that moves backwards and forwards through time and nothing really happens.  Kind of like Ishiguro books.  Although actually, stuff does happen, or has happened, it’s just not happening now so there’s a lack of immediacy to everything.  It all just washes over you and is quite sad.


Edinburgh Scrapbook

I took a 5 day trip to Edinburgh recently, and decided to continue my travel scrap booking.  It wasn’t quite the mammoth job that my USA scrap book had been, and I just picked up an A5 notebook from a shop in Edinburgh.

It’s mostly photos, but I did also include a few other things like train tickets, restaurant business cards, and maps.  I got my photos printed out at Boots, where the 7×5 size was the closest to the size of each page of my notebook.  So I created collages of the photos in Picasa in 7×5, then cut out the individual images when I had printed them.  I used some full sized images, as well as a mixture of smaller sizes.  I left some white space to do some ‘journaling’.  I did a much better job of keeping it all chronological this time around, the America one all got a bit jumbled up.

I like that I used a note book from Edinburgh to use as my scrap book.   My next trip isn’t until October to Riga, Latvia and it would be nice to find another little book there to use but I’m not sure how much time we’ll have to go shopping.

Carrot and Ginger Soup

This is a soup recipe, if you’re wanting something quick, healthy, and vegetarian.  Or you have a lot of carrots to use up because boyfriend bought another bag even though there was already one in the fridge…

  • One onion
  • Six Carrots (diced)
  • Ginger (I used about 2g of frozen stuff, puree would have worked so much better)
  • 500ml Vegetable Stock
  • Cheese 🙂

Pretty easy soup!  Fry the onion in some oil until brown.  Add the carrots, stock, and ginger and simmer for 20mins ish.  Then remove from the heat, blitz in a blender, and return to the heat to warm back up.

I vastly improved this soup by putting a pile of grated cheddar on top.





Ginger Almond Smoothie

Another smoothie attempt.  I should really start thinking through the flavour options instead of just throwing in everything that I find in the fridge…Anyway this time around I wanted to try adding some of the Almond and Coconut Butter I had picked up, and I used Coconut Milk so that’s kind of coordinated.

This is what I used anyway:

  • 4 Frozen Kale
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 tbsp Frozen Raspberries
  • 2g Frozen Ginger
  • 20g Huel
  • 200ml Coconut Milk
  • 1 tbsp Almond Coconut Butter

And then just blitz in the Nutribullet.  It makes two glasses.

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 300
Carbs: 24
Fat: 17g
Protein: 12g
Sugar: 8g
Fibre: 6g

I always look at these things and think eeek!  So many calories, and so much sugar for a little drink.  I do this whilst stuffing my face with chocolates…




Flower Pot Cover

For slightly mad reasons I decided to make a cover for the flower pot of out (boyfriend’s) Yucca tree. Boyfriend is planning to fill the living room with greenery apparently, he has not though.  I didn’t like the horrible brown plastic flower pot the Yucca is in, so decided to make a simple cover for it.  It is essentially, a rectangle of fabric (isn’t everything?) with elastic in the top.

I measured the flower pot, 29cm high and 79cm diameter. So I cut my fabric approximately 31cm x 84cm to allow for the hems.  I was using some left over fabric so I couldn’t quote get a bit enough piece, and had to add in a little bit on the corner.  I cut the jagged edge off to give a nice straight edge, then cut a triangle out of some off cuts.  The tricky part was getting the pattern to line up.  I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Once I had my beautiful rectangle, I folded over the top about 1cm to create a tube for the elastic.  Given that my elastic was so skinny, and it’s always a ball ache to pull elastic through I decided to put the elastic in first and then sew.  At full stretch my elastic was about 81cm.  I pinned one end of the elastic to the end of the fabric to keep it in place.  It meant when I got about half way along I ran out of elastic, so I stretched the elastic to its limit and pinned that end to the other end of the fabric.

I kept the elastic pinned into place for the time being.  Then I hemmed the bottom edge of the fabric (much easier to sew a straight line, then trying to hem a skirt).  Then I folded it in half right sides together, and sewed the two pieces together.  And it was done!


Best Film Photos of 2017 So Far

I’ve been trying to do more film photography but it can be a bit of a pain.  It’s defo not as easy as whipping out your phone, and the results are quite hit or miss.  But these are some of my favourites from 2017 so far.

Below- Superlambanana near Albert Dock, Liverpool.  Taken with Canon Ixus and APS film.

Below- Part of the Washington Memorial, Washington DC.  Taken with Diana F+ and black and white film.

Below- Photographer dogs in New York City.  Taken with Diana F+.

Below- Archway entrance to China Town, Liverpool. Taken with Canon Ixus with APS film.

Below- Cherry Blossom in Washington DC.  Taken with Diana F+.

Below- Townhouses in Washington DC.  Taken with Canon Ixus and APS film.

Below- Coney Island, Brooklyn.  Taken with Canon Ixus and APS film.

Inkodye- Experimenting with Sun Printing

I bought some Inkodye about four years ago, and had a go then.  It’s a dye that reacts to sunlight or UV, and I was living in a shared house without a garden.  It meant doing this project in my bedroom next to the window and it didn’t really work.

It’s fairly easy to play with.  You do need to plan it a bit first though.  The most obvious idea is shadow printing.  You paint the dye onto the fabric in a thin even coat.  Then quickly place items with clear silhouettes on top.  Leave in bright sunlight for about 20mins.  It was really windy when I was out, so I had to weigh my fabric down with coins!  You don’t have long before the dye starts to react, so I arranged my items in advance to make sure I could put them on quickly after painting my dye.  You can see in the pictures above how the dye started to change colour in just a few minutes.  You can also see how I splatted the Inkodye over the table I was using!  I also got it on some of the plants in the garden.  Be careful not to get it on your clothes, I think you would struggle to wash it out.   

I used pieces of card cut into hearts, a key, safety pins, horse shaped paper clips, scissors, buttons, and film negatives.  The best results came from the heavier items that lay flatter on the fabric like the key and scissors.  The card hearts would have worked better but I used a spray bottle for the dye on that piece instead of painting it and that made it all splodgy!  The negatives did nothing!  They were too dark and entirely blocked the light.  What you can do it print an inverted image of a photograph onto a piece of acetate or the ‘Transparency Sheets’ that Inkodye sell.

Afterwards I carefully transferred the pieces of fabric onto a tray to bring them inside.  The dye is still light sensitive, so once you remove the items onto the white bits underneath with start to react and change colour.  I put them all into the washing machine as quickly as possible, with the special Inkodye Detergent.  My washing machine refused to obey my command immediately, and they were waiting inside for a few minutes before I set it going.  In that time I lost the definition of the safety pins and horse shaped paper clips.  It was fun to play around but I don’t think I am quite ready to attack another piece of real clothing.