Archive July 2011

I rarely drag my offspring into my blog, partly for their privacy but more importantly because they are taller and stronger. But yesterday we watched our daughter graduate.  It’s not often our family can be rounded up for anything approaching critical mass (like herding cats really) but yesterday we managed it.   Touchingly, her brother bought a suit because, as he put it,  ‘I didn’t want to be pointed out in photos for decades to come as The One Who Couldn’t be Arsed to Make An Effort’. Everyone in our pack looked bright and shiny and very very happy.  As did everyone else, so multiply that by 250 family units.

I knew we’d feel pride but I hadn’t expected to be quite so moved by the ceremony.  There was a great speech, pomp,  a Senate that made us feel like we were in Hogwarts and stirring music.  Her father and I teared up regularly.     The beautiful university hall was packed with other shiny graduands and parents.  The swell of love and pride in the hall was palpable, if it could have been hooked up to the national grid, all those wind turbines could have taken the day off.


There were our beloved children, rightly having their moment of glory for extraordinary achievement.  All that work,  late nights, anguished phone calls, pressure, student meals (and I use that term advisedly) shared accom, bills,  these last three years were hanging in the air and just disappeared as they walked through the looking glass, shook hands and collected their degrees .  This is what it’ll be like watching them get married, or have their own children – this was A Moment.  We love our children, we want the world for them and in this moment they were absolutely going for it. Glossy, clever and confident, they completely deserve it.

So today we just have the memories, the merchandise and the t-shirt, but daughter, I salute you.


The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan DidionGuest blogger: Jason Bartholomew, Rights Director

The Two Roads Book Club met last week to discuss Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. The tea was brewed, the pastries were glistening, and the conversation was flowing. Overall, the general feeling was each of us felt a strong connection to Didion’s book. Whether the book conjured up memories of funerals attended in Mexico, time spent working as a grief counsellor where this book was suggested reading for those in mourning, or perhaps that it simply served as a reminder of our own mortality — we all agreed Didion’s book was a moving account but not an easy read.

Personally, I very much enjoyed the book. Didion has written a phenomenal memoir of death, grief, and how life can change in an instant. There is such a sadness to the story, but the richness of the writing is transportive. The book opens with Didion’s husband dying suddenly of cardiac arrest. Didion had been preparing dinner in their apartment in Manhattan, and one moment her husband was alive — sitting in his favorite chair and reading — and the next moment he was dead.

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First-time author, Ashley Dartnell, is our guest blogger this month. Farangi Girl was published in June

‘Just put your anxiety aside and write the book.’

Ashley DartnellThis was the advice my teacher (the writer Blake Morrison) gave me as I spiralled through yet another cycle of self doubt. I was in the second year of an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths. I had given up my job to do the course, my husband had just lost his job and my six year old had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What Blake was referring to was not any of those problems but my chronic unease about the subject matter of my book. This was despite the fact that I had applied to Goldsmiths after twenty-five years of working in business and media explicitly to write this particular book: an autobiographical memoir of my growing up in Iran during the time of the Shah.

What was causing such disquiet, as Graham Greene so brilliantly put it, was ‘the bitterness leaks again out of my pen.’ I was upset and horrified at how much anger, how much bitterness was flowing out of me. Every day, I would sit at my desk in a trance: lost in the sights, sounds and emotions of my childhood. At the end of the day, after I switched off my computer, if anyone asked me what I had written, I had absolutely no idea. The material was coming from some very deep and well hidden reservoir. The next morning I would read through what I had written in a state of anticipation and despair—the scenes of my childhood were so vivid and often difficult and sad.

And, the secrets—so many secrets! All my life I had successfully avoided thinking about the complicated web of secrets my mother had woven. Now I was untangling the strands of deceit and obfuscation and it was painful.

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