A tale of a Government cat — Open Book

The official kitty-cat of Parliament Square!!!

While the exploits of Whitehall Cats – Palmerston and Larry most recently – have been recently making the news, cats in Government employ are nothing new. In fact, here at National Records of Scotland, we have evidence of a feline curiosity – a cat tasked with protecting records more than three centuries ago. The Exchequer […]

via A tale of a Government cat — Open Book

Read Harder Challenge 2017

rhc_cover_pinterestI’ve decided to take part in the Book Riot reading challenge this year. I came to it rather late but I’d already finished several books that met various challenges so it’s achievable I think.

For the rest, I’ve been scouring my bookshelves and Kindle lists for items to fit the bill. I love that it’s encouraging me to read things which have been literally gathering dust until now. I’ve looked out books which have been languishing, for years in many cases, and added them to the ‘Book Riot Challenge pile’.

However, this is my personal reading and I have my own reasons for taking the challenge. Therefore, I may not stick stringently to the requirements in every case. For example, my pick for the ‘Central or South America’ challenge is likely to be a book about the Caribbean by a Cuban author – but it looks interesting and it’s already in my possession (also, there was some debate on the challenge forum about whether the Caribbean was or was not part of ‘Central America’. I have chosen to embrace that grey area). And, of course, there’s always going to be a Scottish slant to my choices whenever possible.

For those remaining challenges my current bookstock just can’t meet I’ll be utilising local libraries and the Scottish branch of Better World Books. A few of the challenges have me seeking books I wouldn’t normally consider reading at all – which is, of course, the whole point… But enough writing, I have reading to do! I just finished “an all-ages comic” so I’m off to pick my next read now. Which one to choose? Maybe that Caribbean one?… Or a banned book? So many choices!

FYI, here’s my list so far:

  1. Read a debut novelThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  2. Read an all-ages comicLobey’s the Wee Boy!: Collected Lobey Dosser by Bud Neill
  3. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your locationSaltire Invasion by John Ferguson
  4. Read a travel memoir – The Desert and the Sown: Travels in Palestine and Syria by Gertrude Bell
  5. Read a book you’ve read before – The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey
  6. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your locationA Splendid Isolation: Lessons of Happiness from the Kingdom of Bhutan by Madeline Drexler
  7. Read a fantasy novel – The Obsidian Throne by James Oswald
  8. Read a superhero comic with a female leadThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
  9. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey –Warrior of Peace: The Life of the Buddha by Jinananda
  10. Read a collection of stories by a woman – Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
  11. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color – Little Green by Walter Mosley
  12. Read a book about booksThe Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane
  13. Read a book published by a micropressThe Birlinn of Clanranald by Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (Alexander MacDonald), translated by Alan Riach, (published by Kettillonia)

Too Much Information by Firefox and HitRecord

LOVE YOUR LIBRARIES? #MakeItCount

The Edinburgh City of Literature Trust’s library campaign launches today!
#MakeItCount #LibrariesMatter

Make It Count Action Card

Edinburgh Library and Information Services Agency

The City of Literature Trust is running a library campaign calling library lovers and users all over Edinburgh to get a card, sign up a friend, make the most of what’s on offer, and get vocal about how great libraries are.

On Monday 26 June 2017, the City of Literature Trust’s ‘Make It Count’ Library campaign will be kicked-off – spanning a four week period that will delve deep into the heart of Edinburgh’s libraries by featuring stories, images and conversations between librarians and writers – ending with the Trust’s pledge to take the words and support received to Edinburgh’s Councillors at the City Chambers.

Inspired by the support and enthusiasm generated by the Libraries Matter campaign run by CILIPS, the Trust was keen to carry this sentiment forward; to harness the overwhelming support and passion for Edinburgh’s local libraries and channel this into creating a tangible and noticeable…

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The Handmaid’s Tale (TV series) – (not quite) midseason review

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Last night I caught up with the new Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale via wonderful All4. They’ve so far only broadcast 4 out of 10 episodes so I’m not even mid season yet. However, I already feel this may be another of those rare “the film is better than the book” scenarios!

To me “June” in the series seems so much stronger and more real than the nameless character in the book. I never truly cared what happen to the book woman but June has spirit and is silently fighting to retain her personality as well as her life. The fact that book woman never named herself, even in her own mind, was big points against her. She already seemed broken by the system. June is sweary and disrespectful (in her head). She appears to submit but we know what’s really going on in there. Also, Elisabeth Moss does a fantastic job of conveying June’s emotions. Especially the barely controlled panic in her eyes during the most difficult situations. You can see her running through scenarios in her mind as she weighs up possibilities and struggles to give the ‘right’ answer, the one that will keep her safe and alive.

A tiny highlight of episode 1 for me was the brief, blink and you’ll miss it, cameo by author Margaret Atwood! She swoops in at one point to clout Offred round the ear – both hilarious and terrifying. Fun as that was, episode 3 has been the real standout so far. Through flashbacks we see the insidious steps that were taken to remove women’s rights and independence. The necessary precursors to their eventual enslavement. Jeezo! This seems just a blink away from the world as it is today. It was horrifying.

As a 10 part series this production has the time to remain true to Atwood’s original book – no need for swingeing cuts to your favourite plot points. However, writer Bruce Miller has also managed to add to the tale: rounding characters, showing backstory. Most excitingly, The Handmaid’s Tale is frighteningly relevant to our current circumstances.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum bitches!

Book review – Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland

 

Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales
by Sara Maitland
Published November 2012 by Granta Books
ISBN: 9781847084293

This started well, with the above – wonderfully feminist – definition of the word ‘gossip’. However, it quickly turned into an interesting but very confused book.

On one hand it’s a social history of England’s woodlands, examining how people have lived in and used the forests over the last thousand years or so. It’s also a fascinating breakdown of Germanic fairytales, their history and development. The author suggests that fairytales and forests are inextricably linked – an argument I find quite convincing. However, the problem for me is that Maitland spends her time frolicking round English woods (and a couple of Scottish ones) when the forests of the fairytales are in central Europe. The really nice premise of this book is spoiled for me by this odd geographic choice. I wanted to learn about the fairytales in the Germanic woodlands – their origin and real-world context.

A major bugbear for me was the author’s choice to visit a few Scottish woodlands… while still discussing english history! As well as just being insulting, those later forays into Scottish trees felt rushed, half-hearted and poorly written in comparison to earlier chapters. An attempt to pad out the book and nothing more.

The author’s re-tellings of several fairytales are excellent. If she had chosen to write two books, one about english woodland history and another about fairytales, I’m sure they would have made two very good works. Squashed together they seem disjointed, confused and un-natural.

Brexit negotiations under a minority government – via Second Reading

An impartial, factual briefing on Brexit from the House of Commons Library blog Second Reading

Theresa May intends to form a minority government and to work with allies, in particular the ten MPs in Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to press ahead with the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments.
What might this mean for the Brexit negotiations?
Talks will still go ahead
Both Theresa May and the EU have said that the Brexit negotiations will still go ahead.

Talks are due to start in the week of 19 June, but they could be delayed, depending on how long it takes to form a new government. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted an offer to delay the start of the negotiations until the UK is ready. However, there is no guarantee that the 27 remaining EU Member States would then agree unanimously to extend the negotiating period at the other end.

What is the Government’s Brexit mandate?

The election hasn’t made it much clearer what Brexit policies voters support. We only know that there’s no majority support for any party’s manifesto and Brexit plans.

However, David Davis appeared to suggest to Sky News at around 2am on election night that there would be no mandate for leaving the EU Single Market and customs union.

What’s the DUP position?

DUP and Brexit

In the June 2016 referendum Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to remain in the EU, but two thirds of self-described Unionists in Northern Ireland voted to leave, and the DUP supported Brexit. The DUP is a long-time ally of the Conservative Party and its support has already helped the Government to pass the Article 50 bill which allowed Theresa May to trigger the Brexit process.

DUP Chief Whip Jeffrey Donaldson has said the DUP will continue to support the Conservatives on Brexit.

What might the DUP demand for their support?

There are areas of agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP: both want to protect EU and UK citizens’ rights, avoid a hard border with Ireland and end the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice.

But there are also disagreements. The DUP manifesto called for a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU, but also a customs union. And Arlene Foster doesn’t want the ‘hard Brexit’ implied by Theresa May’s ruling out of membership of the Single Market. The manifesto referred to “Ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the European Union”, and a “frictionless border with the Irish Republic”.

Will the DUP demand concessions in return for support for the Great Repeal Bill and other Brexit-related bills to be brought before Parliament?

Theresa May is not forming a coalition government with the DUP, so it’s unlikely that there will be DUP ministers at the negotiating table. But DUP influence in UK negotiating positions could be felt if the Government is obliged to put more emphasis on the question of the border with Ireland. This might in turn give rise to a higher profile in the negotiations for all the Devolved Administrations.

Might Parliament be bolder?

A stronger opposition might feel more emboldened to use the tools at its disposal to scrutinise the Brexit negotiations. The Government may also be less likely to win any vote on a withdrawal agreement at the end of the negotiations.

Steering the unprecedented quantity of Brexit-related legislation through the Commons without a majority is likely to be more problematic than in the previous Parliament. Also the House of Lords might consider itself able to vote against Government Bills such as the Great Repeal Bill, if the Salisbury Convention was considered not to apply to a minority Government’s manifesto.

The general election has meant that new Select Committees are unlikely to be up and running until well into the autumn.

Is ‘no deal’ more likely?

A minority Government is likely to find it harder to agree a UK negotiating position, and to have less room to compromise in the negotiations.

This could make it harder to reach agreement – and therefore more likely that the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 without any withdrawal agreement. The increased likelihood of another general election probably adds to that risk, as does the increased possibility of a parliamentary vote against a withdrawal agreement.

Or, paradoxically, a weaker Government could give the UK a stronger negotiating hand. If both sides knew that the UK Parliament was unlikely to accept an unfavourable proposal, the EU might be less likely to suggest it.

Picture credit: brexit by airpixCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

source: secondreading.uk