The Truth 2

Book Rec: The truth about ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’

Ooh, a book review, how thrilling!

Do bear with, this won’t last long and The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is the first book in ages that I actually couldn’t put down. It was a proper finish-it-at-1.30am-even-though-I-need-to-get-up-early-tomorrow job.

The premise is simple: a writer from New York travels to New Hampshire in order to prove that his friend, mentor and former university lecturer, Harry Quebert, is innocent of murdering a 15 year old girl over thirty years previously with whom he was having a love affair. Cue lots of reminiscences, local townspeople getting upset, and general thrills and spills as we follow the writer, Goldman, on his quest to free Quebert.

Full of 'shit the bed' moments
Full of ‘shit the bed’ moments

This, to me, is not particularly literary – I don’t think it will be nestled between Salman Rushdie and Kingsley Amis in your local Waterstones – but it is excellently written with some genuinely, as my colleague puts it, ‘shit the bed’ moments. Perhaps what is remarkable is the fact that the novel is written by a French author, Joel Dicker, in his native language and then translated. You would never know it, and that in itself is exceptionable.

One little niggle from me is that sometimes the dialogue doesn’t feel entirely natural. The 15 year old girl at the centre of the whole thing also got on my nerves from time to time. Don’t let this stop you in any from enjoying this book; it is easy to read and incredibly rewarding.

If you commute, have recently read something bad/tricky to get through, have a late summer holiday planned, or even if you can just read words on a page, then do yourself a favour and pick this up. And let me know how you get on please! Apologies in advance for anyone who hates it.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is available in hardback from all good booksellers and also in Kindle edition

Category: Life
Previous AWESOME meal at Red Dog Saloon

Burgers! Where do YOU love?

Birthdays are a big deal in my family. The now obligatory post-birthday Loz and Kathry lunch is even more of a big deal. It has to be somewhere posh or cool and involves lots of food and not a little drink. This concept could only be improved if Big Sister lived a little closer and was able to come along!

This year’s birthday lunch for Loz was meant to be a brunch, an all-you-can-drink brunch no less at the South Place Hotel, but now one of us is, ahem, up the duff, all you can drink Prosecco suddenly didn’t seem as exciting.

Our first port of call was going to be the delish Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square. Disgustingly big burgers, pitchers of beer and Hipster Central – what wasn’t to love? Well, actually, the lack of non-meaty products wasn’t particularly to love for veggie Loz so we decided on nearby The Breakfast Club instead. Having a cheeky branch in Shoreditch that we hadn’t visited plus a rather fabulous German beer on tap made this seem like the perfect spot but having had a quick gander at the other branch on Artillery Lane opposite Liverpool Street, and spying the queue OUT OF THE DOOR we thought that we might save our feet and head to Spitalfields instead.

Previous AWESOME meal at Red Dog Saloon
Previous AWESOME meal at Red Dog Saloon

And that’s how we ended up at Byron. Yay for Byron! Got a booth immediately AND they serve Brooklyn Lager. Score! (And being in the second trimester means that certain mummies-to-be can have one alcoholic drink a week. Double score!)

Byron burger: hot.
Byron burger: hot.

Now, Byron is emerging as the biggest train in the burger joint trend that looks unlikely to die out any time soon. People in my office actually clapped for joy at the arrival of American chain Five Guys to Covent Garden, and I have been lured in the slightly dirty, and slightly pretentious queue-only, world of Meat Liquor on several occasions.

Byron is a much cleaner brand than ML but still aims to retain the trendy aesthetic so key to the burger revolution: the interior is modern with chairs that you want to pinch for your own flat, and the burger buns are shiny brioche. You may want to discount the most visible of this brand of tasty meatwich but please don’t. It. Is. Awesome.

You might have a Byron on your high street but the burgers are good, the sides are very good (onion rings and chipotle mayo are musts), and the Oreo cookie milkshake is the perfect way to finish. There are very few veggie options, as with most of these places, but the Portobello mushroom burger was pronounced to be the proverbial hit.

Lozzie enjoyed her gargantuan meal, evidently.
Lozzie enjoyed her gargantuan meal, evidently.

Incidentally, Loz rates Gourmet Burger Kitchen quite highly as a veggie destination. It doesn’t feel quite as much like a restaurant as Byron (it’s a bit closer to Nando’s in that you pay at a counter), but as well as offering a vegetable-based, goat’s cheese option, there’s also a bean burger and a falafel one. A bit of variety is never a bad thing, although a meat-substitute burger would be even better, my vegetarian relatives tell me.

God I love a dirty burger. If a topping isn’t oozing out of the rapidly disintegrating bun then frankly it’s just not worth the effort. Funnily enough, Whitechapel’s aptly named Dirty Burger is next on the hit list with Camden’s Hache being named the restaurant of choice for when me and hubby have London overnighter when celebrating our wedding anniversary in November.

I want this all again, NOW.
I want this all again, NOW.

I really wish I had written this post after lunch as I have started to drool on my desk. Ah well.

If you know a great burger place in London or Essex then give us a shout please!

Category: Life

I got an email from a friend about domestic violence today

It’s no exaggeration to say that her email made me shiver. I walked out to buy some lunch afterwards, mainly because I wanted to walk somewhere, and I obviously couldn’t think of anything except what she’s going through. I wanted to smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink; not something comforting, like wine, but something that hurts as it goes down. I felt angry, and sad, and lucky, and really tired.

The friend is a person I’ve known a long time but have probably only seen once in the last ten years. I won’t say any more than that but we’ve known each other on and off for a long time. I’ll call her H. H read an article I’d written for an Essex-centred website, which I’ll link to elsewhere, that was sort of snarky, sort of political, and dealt with issues of class, via Jamie Oliver. She told me that I was able to give a voice to a group, and that she admired that. And then she said there was something she’d like to discuss with me, and ‘see my slant on it’. And then she emailed me about domestic violence.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately; it’s on my mind in general and it’s always been a subject I’ve been drawn to, for various reasons. But high-profile stories like those of Janay Rice and Christy Mack put this firmly back in front of me, and prompt a cultural dialogue that gives me hope but is also utterly depressing. The fact is, this happens too often for you not to know, not to work with, not be related to, women going through this right now. Living with violence and in fear every day.

H played down her own abuse to begin with, framing the email in terms of witnessing an episode that looked like abuse and asking why, in quite a small community, nobody seemed to care. H sees this woman on a regular basis, and she bears all the hallmarks of someone beaten down by life. It’s quite characteristically female to play down your own worries and fears until you’ve justified them by declaring that it happens to other people, it’s not that you’re trying to get help for yourself.

H wants us to write together, and she’s now started to be more open about the history of her relationship. She doesn’t give herself permission to define it as ‘high-level’ domestic violence but it sounds as if she knows now, finally, that it is. I think the floodgates have opened, and I don’t even know whether we will end up writing together; I think our voices could be distinct and complementary, but maybe now she just needs a friend? Hearing her describe how people she has confided in have given suggestions then disappeared is almost as fucking awful as reading descriptions of the control, the rages, and the injury. It lends itself to the hyperbolic but I’m trying to avoid that: it’s scary enough without excess adjectives. The photos of the damage after a rage make me feel sick and then I feel really guilty that I have reacted that way. What right do I have to feel uncomfortable?

You think you know how you would react to violence in the home. I have always told myself how I would react, and there would be no forgiveness; and I know that the truth is that I tell myself that, repeat it, reconfirm it, because I have to believe it. When I’m strong, I do believe it, but when I’m feeling weak, or less than, or I look at M’s face and feel the love I have for him as something physical, I wonder.

Category: Life
heart sand

On M being late

M has nightmare time-keeping.  I have no doubt that this fact provides my lady family members with not a little glee, as I’m not exactly known for my slavish devotion to arriving on time.  I’m what I would call a solid ten-minuter: I’m almost always 5-10 minutes late, usually through underestimating how long something (a shower, the walk to the station) will take me. And even when I haven’t assumed I can blow-dry my hair in a minute and a half, I factor in no wriggle room so if a tube doesn’t come immediately I am, yet again, running late.  I’m rarely so late you could be annoyed with me, but I’m like sand under the fingernail, irritating you.

So what better punishment than to love deeply a man who procrastinates himself into constant lateness?  I am very uptight about travelling when it involves something that can’t be changed, like a flight, a funeral, a pre-booked train.  I am happiest when I can get to the airport two and a half to three hours before the flight, so that I can relax and have breakfast, and feel smug.  It’s true that I haven’t yet flown with M, and I’m sure that’ll be a post all of its own…  For now, I mainly have his every-day lateness to deal with.

The man is awesome in a million ways and moaning about lateness is dull for everyone, so I will just sum it up by saying that he struggles to get going- and lord knows, so do I- but he completely ignores the fact that time is getting on and just says “in a minute”.  We can end up leaving hours after we originally agreed to.  I am still trying to tackle this and the furthest I’ve got is to tell myself that there’s no deadline.  Except when there is.

His other timekeeping skill is saying he’ll be done in a certain amount of time and then it being absolutely nowhere near.  Case in point, two weeks ago: he said he’d be done in 30 minutes: we ended up meeting an hour and a half later.  I don’t mind that it took that long!  It can’t be helped!  But not having that information, or an update, stops me from being able to make an informed decision.  If it’s 30 minutes, I’ll work late; an hour and a half and I’ll go to Westfield for the shops, or a glass of champagne and a read.  And that is too, too frustrating.

I enjoy a glass of fizz. Regularly!
I enjoy a glass of fizz. Regularly!

But this has led to a major- and healthy-revelation to me.  Communication is all-important but when all is said and done, the only person’s behaviour you can affect is your own.  It’s a big thing for me to realise because it’s so counter-intuitive for me.  If someone (ok, M) is late and not that great at communicating how late he will be, then the natural reaction is either to get passive aggressive and annoyed, or to take that person at their word and be caught out sitting and waiting and feeling like you’ve missed out.  I’ve chosen in the past not to go for that glass of champagne because I don’t want to keep him waiting, and then been disappointed and hurt that he’s not there when he said he would be, and I still didn’t get the champagne.  I’m not negating my own feelings, and it would be nice if he could estimate and stay in touch a little bit better.

But if I want the champagne I should have the champagne; if I don’t I only have, to some extent, myself to blame.  It’s not unfair to take care of yourself and it avoids the petty gripes and niggles a little.  Communication is important but it’s a hard-to-swallow truth that you can only affect your own actions (and reactions).  It would be passive aggressive to think “right, I’m buggering off then”, but thinking it would be nice to do something with the waiting time, and knowing that it’s not unreasonable to please yourself in that situation, is very freeing.  I tend to worry that if M arrives exactly when he says he will, that it would be awful to not be instantly available.  But that just adds to the potential reservoir of resentment.  When push comes to shove, if I’m having champagne when M arrives, he really won’t begrudge the fifteen minutes it takes for me to finish it. And I won’t begrudge the time I’ve spent waiting, and pleasing myself.  But I still don’t know how to solve the politics of procrastination.

Category: Life
Kathry (one in a million) 2

Five things to avoid after you’ve been to your therapy appointment

You’ve ranted, you’ve raved, you’ve probably cried and loved and hated your therapist in equal measure. Time to dodge these emotionally-baffling bullets.

  1. Joggers. When I’m walking my tear-stained face home, don’t be standing next to me at the traffic lights stretching and looking all smug. I could jog too y’know; it would probably just make me cry is all.
  1. Off-loaders. You’ve had your moment to off-load so now they think it’s their turn. Friends, partners and family beware: I pay good freaking money to get rid of my rubbish and I suggest you do the same. Plus, I’m more likely to be feeling drained than renewed after my therapy session so just leave. Me. Be. Thanking you!
  1. Very, very happy people. Reading an article after my session about a yoga teacher who spends ten minutes being grateful each morning because “you can’t be depressed if you’re grateful” (wrong, by the way) wasn’t what we call A Good Idea. Anger ensued pretty quickly.
  1. Facebook. Guaranteed, there will be something to piss you off: attention-seeking status updates, pictures of dramatic weight loss, and Candy Crush notifications on your timeline, to name but a few. Be kind and swaddle your emotional self instead.
  1. Any movie or TV show where every problem is solved as if by magic. You may think that this will cheer you up but you’ll most likely end up feeling really rather bitter, especially because you’ve just spent all your beer money on an hour’s ranting while these guys only had to cry for the duration of a montage before everything was just dandy again. Save the show for tomorrow; you can delude yourself happily when you’re a little stronger.
Category: Life