Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Is Co-Working For Me?

Yesterday, I did something that was quite surprising for me - I attended a co-working event in Create Cafe at the Wakefield One building, organised by Wakefield Jelly. Doing anything of that kind is pretty difficult for me but I was determined to push myself and I'm glad I did. I met some brilliant people and got a lot of work done. More importantly, it got me away from the endless grandmother calls that stop me working well at home these days.

If you haven't been to Create yet, I really recommend it. It's a light, airy place downstairs at Wakefield One with gorgeous cakes and excellent staff. It's the perfect environment to meet new people and I have to say I enjoyed it.

There's a 'but' though. Of course there is - it's me. It has nothing to do with the event itself, just a personal problem that I grappled with. I'd decided the day before that I was going to take the fifth draft of a novel manuscript with me and I'd packed it before I started over-thinking. I was worried about what turn the conversation would take if someone happened to ask me what I was working on. It's not that I'm ashamed of the fact that I write lesbian fiction - it just may take a bit of explaining to someone who doesn't know me and, me being me, I like to avoid potential pitfalls. So I unpacked the novel and took some PhD secondary reading instead. In hindsight, I know no one would've pressed about the novel but that didn't stop the fear bubbling up. Very little stops that with me.

So, in answer to the initial question, yes, I think co-working is for me. But I have to battle with that self-confidence thing I've been struggling with for most of my life. I will attend another Wakefield Jelly day but it may not be the October one - I only get back from holiday that day!

Wakefield Jelly takes place on the fourth Wednesday of the month - more information can be found here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Classic Film Review: Odette (1950)

Based on a true story, Odette is the story of Odette Sanson, a special agent sent undercover into France during WWII. Given the fact that the film is endorsed by the real Odette, it can be seen to be a fairly accurate representation of her time in France. Anna Neagle stars as Odette with Trevor Howard as Peter Churchill and Peter Ustinov as Alex Rabinovich.

I was astonished by Anna Neagle's performance in this film. Having only previously seen her in Irene (1940, reviewed here), I wasn't sure if this type of meaty dramatic role was for her. However, she really did the part justice from the moment Odette says goodbye to her children onwards. There are some exceptional scenes scattered throughout with only the slightest drifts into melodrama. The torture scenes were very well-handled and the snippets of time passing through the war and how Odette's life altered - or didn't - through the later months. One peculiarly affecting scene came towards the end when a Nazi guard is begging Odette to tell her what to do because the Americans are coming.

Trevor Howard is solid, not detracting from Neagle's central performance, but their romance feels shoehorned into it - despite the fact that Odette and Peter married in real life! The other star of this is Peter Ustinov as radio operator Alex. Although his is a relatively minor role, he instils it with much life, especially in the scene where he quietly demands to be sent back to France to help his friends. It's mentioned at the very beginning of the film that he was executed soon afterwards, captured as he parachuted back into France.

This is a bleak film which deserves credit for the unflinching representation of the conditions people such as Odette were kept in. It also looks authentic and the acting is near flawless. There are a few moments of humour peppered within the piece to lighten the tone occasionally but, for the most part, it is a difficult one to watch. What I was left with was an overwhelming sense of awe for what Odette went through during her time as a secret agent. From her portrayal, I think Anna Neagle felt this too. A delicate yet commanding performance from a talented woman.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

To Do Before 2014

As you do when you can't sleep, I spent a good proportion of the early hours of this morning cataloguing what I need to do before this year's out and also the things I would like to do. None of these, amazingly, seem rooted in fun. The things I'd like to do are just extensions of the things I need to do. Funny that.

  • Final chapter of my thesis - Non-negotiable. This will be done and redrafted several times. 
  • Rewriting first chapter of my thesis - I'm pragmatic enough to realise the final work on this may end up being done in January. It's a hefty job and it all depends how long writing the final chapter takes me. More details on my thesis completion schedule can be found here.  
  • Research and write a Yates/Dickens article I've got in mind - Pie in the sky this one. I'll only have time to do it if the days are magically extended by fifty percent. 
  • Research an article on dead insects in a Yates novel - Don't ask. Also, see above. 
  • Corrections on Downton Abbey essay when these come back - Non-negotiable.

  • Finish sixth draft of 'Danni' - This is essentially a polishing exercise. I finished the fifth draft earlier this year and now I'm trying to make it perfect. 
  • Finish first draft of 'Izzy' - I last wrote about this here. I've been stopping and starting with this one all year and I know where it's going. Just need to get it finished. The first draft's about two-thirds done.
  • Finish first draft of 'Kathy' - This is less than 20k in at the moment but I would like to complete it before the year's out. 
  • Do NaNoWriMo - I'm determined to participate again, particularly because I have an excellent idea. The characters are roaming in my head and it's going to be set on a cruise ship - plenty of time for research when I go on my own cruise in a few weeks. 

These are only a fraction of the things I'd like to do but I'm trying to be realistic. I've got four other novel manuscripts in need of revision and I did say this would be a year for revision. But the most important thing at the moment is my PhD. It's much easier to write first drafts alongside my thesis because I don't have to worry about every individual word as I do with revisions. 

I feel a little like Eglantine... Anybody have a self-duplication spell?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Classic Film Review: The French Line (1953)

The French Line stars Jane Russell as Mame Carson, a millionaire who's just been dumped by her fiancée for being too rich. Under the advice of partner Waco (Arthur Hunnicutt), she takes her honeymoon trip alone and incognito, persuading someone else to take on her name so she can find a man who falls in her with her and not her fortune. Unfortunately, Waco has paid Pierre DuQuesne (Gilbert Roland) to keep an eye on Mame on board. While keeping an eye on who he thinks is Mame, Pierre falls in love with the real deal but the situation gets even more complicated.

This lacklustre film is saved from complete mediocrity by Jane Russell and Mary McCarty who plays her friend Annie Farrell. The songs are fairly forgettable, one exception being their joint number, 'Any Gal From Texas', and the rest of the cast is uninspiring. The plot is very convoluted and there is absolutely no chemistry between Russell and Roland. In fact, his character comes across as one of the most slimy, irritating love interests I've ever seen.

That's not to say The French Line has no redeeming features. There are some amusing scenes, most notably when Pierre gets Mame drunk under the guise of curing her seasickness although, again, the best part of this sequence is when she goes back to her room and sings to Annie about it. The film relies too much on its own credentials: it was Russell's follow-up to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), is also set on a ship crossing to France, involves two women and a bit of a conspiracy and has a screenplay written by the niece of the writer Anita Loos (whose story Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was based on). It essentially tries to live up to its predecessor but without the power of Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn or a decent script and set of songs.

I enjoyed parts of the film because there's no stopping my Jane Russell adoration. But, on the whole, it's a lacklustre piece that doesn't have as many laughs as I thought it would.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Classic Film Review: The Lost Moment (1947)

This film was based on a Henry James novel called The Aspern Papers. Restyling it as The Lost Moment probably had something to do with them changing the name of the integral character from Aspern to Ashton. I can't help thinking that the novel title is a more intriguing one than The Lost Moment though.

Publisher Lewis Venable (Robert Cummings) travels to Venice in search of the love letters of the poet Jeffrey Ashton. Ashton disappeared years earlier quite suddenly and the last place he was seen was this house. His lover, Juliana Borderau (Agnes Moorehead), still survives at the age of 105 and lives in the house with her niece, Tina (Susan Hayward). Venable takes a false name and takes rooms in the house but it soon becomes clear that getting the letters will be hampered by the fact that Tina displays a remarkable tendency to take on her aunt's life, putting them all in danger.

This film worked well on several levels. It was atmospheric with some good performances from the leading players. However, I felt it lost some of its plot tension halfway through, as the mystery of Tina has already been revealed and the secondary concern - what happened to Ashton - has been mentioned so little as to drive it from the mind. The second half of the film is a psychological exploration as Venable tries to make sense of Tina and then cure her.

There are some truly good scenes, such as the one where we finally see the withered face of Juliana and the explosive finale, but in others the narrative descends into melodrama. Words that wouldn't seem preposterous on the page sound bizarre coming from the mouths of actors. The original text was quite short and, after seeing this, I'm keen to read it to find out how much of his characters James actually put across and how much was artistic licence on the part of the producers.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Book Review: A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Lady of Quality, first published in 1896, is one of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novels for adults and treads a completely different path to her famous work The Secret Garden. It tells the story of Clorinda Wildairs and is set in the 1600s. Her mother dies giving birth to her and her father has no interest in his three daughters. He lives a life of debauchery while his youngest daughter picks up some interesting habits in the stables. When he comes across the child and sees her riding his favourite horse, he takes a fancy to her. For a few years she is the renowned companion of drunkards until she transforms herself to catch a husband. One is particularly taken with her but her refusal has reverberations through the years.

I have to say, I struggled with this one. The heroine is too changeable. She goes from being the companion of a bunch of old men to being the prize débutante to being a perfect wife. There are a lot of changes in her character the reader's meant to accept just because she's stunningly beautiful and wondrous and everyone loves her - as we are told on numerous occasions.

Frequently, I felt as if I was actually reading a novel. The handiwork was evident and it was jarring. Two thirds in, the book suddenly becomes interesting with an unexpected event that I expected to throw the heroine into turmoil. It didn't and her life continued pretty much in the same vein. I felt cheated by the ending and more than a little irate at the time I'd wasted with Clorinda.

Far more interesting, though, was her sister, Anne, who is meek and mild and knows everything Clorinda does. For me, Anne is the actual lady of quality and not her beautiful, fabulous sister.

This book suffered from a lack of direction and the ability of the author to immerse herself so much in the heroine at the cost of believability. Not a great read by any stretch of the imagination.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Classic Film Review: That Darn Cat! (1965)

That Darn Cat! stars Hayley Mills as Patti Randall, the owner of a cat called DC (Darn Cat, as named by her irritated father). DC comes home wearing a watch instead of a collar and Patti immediately thinks that it has something to do with the kidnap victim still missing after a robbery. Her sister Ingrid (Dorothy Provine) is sceptical but Patti takes it straight to the FBI where Agent Kelso (Dean Jones) is assigned to investigate. They decide to put DC under surveillance but Patti and Ingrid's prospective boyfriends (Tom Lowell and Roddy McDowall respectively) keep getting in the way. So does nosy neighbour Mrs MacDougall (Elsa Lanchester), who drives her husband (William Demarest) to distraction with her theories.

This is an hilarious Disney film. Mills has a good rapport with both Provine and Jones and, most especially, with the cats playing the role of DC. As the central character, he's quite fun to watch. None of this CGI rubbish, just some nice normal cats playing an extraordinary one.

There are some really funny scenes, mostly including the MacDougalls. Equally, Roddy McDowall storming the house with a shotgun and searching for the 'prowler' is very good. It pokes fun at FBI shadowing techniques which even a cat can see through and there's an excellent selection of scenes at the drive-in movie with Richard Deacon as the manager. There's also a small appearance by the wonderful Ed Wynn as a jeweller.

In a film so amusingly improbable, it was a surprise to find the kidnappers as realistic characters but Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin do very well on that score, adding a real sense of danger to proceedings. The conclusion, fittingly, involved DC as much as the chase did, wrapping things up nicely.

I really enjoyed this one. Quite a good comedy to while away an afternoon and enough eccentric characters to make anybody laugh.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Gym Playlists

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was pulling my iPod out of my pocket for the fifth time to find a more suitably-energetic song, that I really do need a gym playlist. I'd toyed with the idea over the weekend but nearly falling off the bike thanks to my distraction was the final straw. So I came home and put a couple together - 'Instrumental Gym' and 'Alternative Gym'. Now, I'll admit to cheating with the first one but I love the song so much (blame David Starkey's recent series for that) that it's a perfect start to an energetic biking routine.

Instrumental Gym
  1. 'Zadok the Priest'
  2. 'William Tell: Overture'
  3. 'Overture - Austerity Britain' from Betty Blue Eyes
  4. 'Overture' from Gypsy
  5. 'Overture' from Mack and Mabel
  6. 'Overture' from Mame
  7. 'In the Mood' by Glenn Miller
  8. 'American Patrol' by Glenn Miller 
  9. 'Arrival' by ABBA
  10. 'The Carousel Waltz' from Carousel
  11. 'The March of the Siamese Children' from The King and I

Alternative Gym
  1. 'Come Follow the Band' from Barnum
  2. 'A Lot of Livin' To Do' from Bye Bye Birdie
  3. 'Ever After' from Into the Woods
  4. 'Impossible' from Cinderella
  5. 'A Parade in Town' from Anyone Can Whistle
  6. 'Join the Circus' from Barnum
  7. 'Lionheart' by Betty Blue Eyes
  8. 'You Can't Stop the Beat' from Hairspray
  9. 'Big Time' from Mack and Mabel
  10. 'Something's Gotta Give' by Ella Fitzgerald
  11. 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' from Mamma Mia
  12. 'Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)' from Hairspray
My love of musical theatre really comes out there, doesn't it? Demonstrates why the usual music played in gyms has been driving me mad over the last few sessions.

At the moment I'm still trying to get into a routine. Five kilometres on the bike, with increasing effort levels' is taking me about twenty minutes. The rest of the playlist will be taken up with a spell on the cross trainer and resistance training. I have to endure the gym's own music while I'm on the rower because my iPod falls out of my pocket. As for the, thanks. I tend to have lapses in concentration so imagine a whoosh, thud and a yelp and you've got a decent picture of what would happen to me on there. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

My Thesis Completion Schedule

Heading into the final year of my PhD, it seems that things are coming together. Three chapters have been completed, two to a decent level, and, as I explained in a tweet yesterday, it "finally feels as though I've tipped the train over the hill and we're all ready to pick up some speed!". Which is good. I'm not denying it's good. Terrifying, too, but mostly good. However, when I stop to think about what's still to be done I freeze and panic. A few months ago I came up with a schedule for completion. Perhaps writing it down here will banish the bogeyman who seems to be following me around lately. One good thing about this is that the original number one (write chapter three by the end of August) has been ticked off on schedule. So, here we go...
  1. August - October: Research and write chapter four. I'm on with the research for this but it's quite a bitty chapter involving close reading of several Yates and Collins novels followed by the collation of a hell of a lot of secondary material. A month and a half to finish this when I'm taking a holiday during that time too? Hmm...
  2. November - December: Restructure and rewrite chapter one. This needs a fair bit of work as the chapter structure I implemented in chapters two and three is completely absent in the first chapter. However, all the information is there so it is just a case of reworking the jigsaw. I hope that I've been optimistic in giving myself two whole months to do this.
  3. January: Fine-tune chapters two, three and four. Two and three are already up to a decent standard and I have notes to explain precisely what needs to be changed. As for four... Ha, ha ha. 
  4. February: Write thesis introduction. Theoretically, this should be quite easy because I've utilised much of what needs to go in the introduction elsewhere in my thesis. Bit of chopping and changing should work well. Aside from the critical stuff, though, I need to introduce Edmund Yates without really introducing Edmund Yates. Hmm...
  5. March: Write overall conclusion. Least said about this one, the better.
  6. April: Reread and revise where necessary. Basically, ensure it flows, makes sense and doesn't repeat itself. Simples.
  7. May: Check bibliography/references. Self-explanatory.
One thing that isn't in this list is compiling the appendix which I've discussed with my supervisor. We thought that explaining who the characters are in relation to the complex plots of sensation novels may work better in an appendix to stop the chapters getting bogged down in explanatory segues throughout. This is something I'm going to work on as and when I can. Which means, naturally, that it'll end up being a last-minute rush job. Oh, the fun. 

This feels like a very appropriate video for this moment. And it's also fantastic. The John Wilson Orchestra having a crack at Tom and Jerry - watch out for the plates!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Book Review: Till Human Voices Wake Us by Patti Davis

Till Human Voices Wake Us is essentially an intimate novel about grief and finding ways to endure it. Isabelle Berendon loses her son in the opening pages when he drowns in their swimming pool. The narrative flashes forward to reveal that within a few months she's fallen in love with, and moved in with, her sister-in-law, Iris. The rest of the book deals with the events following Nathan's death and the future after she has moved in with Iris and taken her step-daughter, Margaret, with her, including the emergence of another grief lying in wait around the corner.

I can't say I enjoyed this book, but that wasn't really the point. This is a brutally honest novel that examines parental grief in a minute way. It's also about finding the love to help you through such a situation, although the gender of the person Isabelle finds solace in is incidental. As such, it can seem to take a back seat. That was one of the few things that disappointed me about the novel - I didn't think it explained the relationship alteration between Isabelle and Iris in as much detail as it possibly have.

That's not to say that it wasn't an absorbing read. It's written in a very lucid style, plunging into the past whenever necessary. It demonstrates how grief impedes on even the easiest activities and how your present is directly influenced by your past. Apart from her relationships with her husband, dead son and stepdaughter, we also learn about her criminal father and the effect that had on her mother. The flashbacks are always impeccably handled, though some of them were too curtailed for my liking.

Till Human Voices Wake Us is not a fast-moving book. The plot is very simple and the narrative voice is strong throughout. There is, however, a mystery that pulls at you from the opening pages and the resolution genuinely surprised me. The other characters perhaps aren't as strong as Isabelle but this is her story and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

Overall, an exceptional examination of grief and love. Some slight niggles but, ultimately, a very heartfelt novel.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Classic Film Review: A Tale of Two Cities (1958)

In this adaptation of the Dickens novel, Dirk Bogarde heads the cast as drunkard Sydney Carton. Alongside him are Dorothy Tutin as Lucie Manette, Cecil Parker as Jarvis Lorry, Stephen Murray as Dr. Manette and Paul Guers as Charles Darnay. A Tale of Two Cities blends revolutionary France with matters of the heart, this adaptation achieving perhaps more of the latter than the former.

To summarise the plot for those unfamiliar: Dr. Manette has been imprisoned in the Bastille for eighteen years. He is released and moves to England with his daughter. She then meets a French aristocrat masquerading as an Englishman, Charles Darnay, and they marry. However, when revolution breaks out in France, Darnay's heritage leaves him a target. Advocate Sydney Carton is quietly in love with Lucie and is determined to save her happiness at any cost.

On the whole, this film is excellent. It deals with the revolution scenes thoughtfully, showing enough to get the flavour but without it becoming a film more about action that emotion. There are certainly some stand-out moments, for instance, when Manette first meets his daughter again and when Sydney drunkenly confesses his love for Lucie. Then, of course, there are the scenes when Sydney makes and sticks to his great decision. Bogarde is astounding in these scenes, as he is throughout the course of the film. The final scene actually brought tears to my eyes thanks to his performance.

There are some niggles, of course. Paul Guers is dubbed, creating some irritating moments when the dialogue and the miming don't fit. It particularly ruined an important scene between Sydney and Darnay. In addition, there were moments of over-acting, though it could just be that, in comparison to Bogarde, other performances were bound to look weak.

It's been a while since I read the book so I can't comment on adaptation accuracy but, as a piece of film, this works exceedingly well. Sydney grows as a character and the last half of the film ratchets the tension up nicely making the inevitable conclusion even more bittersweet.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Book Review: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe as she leaves England to take her chances in France. She ends up teaching in a school owned by the imperious Madame Beck. She reconnects with old friends and has a tempestuous relationship with fellow teacher, M. Paul Emanuel, which finally becomes the main thrust of the book. Prior to that, we see her infatuation with her godmother's son, Dr Bretton, and his infatuations with their mutual friends, Ginerva Fanshawe and Polly Home.

One of my problems with Villette was how disjointed the first third of the book is. We see a collection of events which seem to have no significance. Although they all conspire to add to the plot later, it is very difficult to feel grounded as we slip from Lucy's time with her godmother to her time as an assistant then join her on the boat to France. Until she joins Madame Beck's establishment, the narrative doesn't really settle. Even then, there are periods where the narrator gets lost in describing one sequence of events and abandons characters for long periods of time. In that respect, it's a difficult novel to read.

I did enjoy the way that Bronte developed M. Paul Emanuel, building his role up gradually until he actually became all I cared about. I had difficulty connecting with Lucy Snowe as a protagonist at first because I didn't really understand her - the later interactions with M. Paul Emanuel, from his fete day onwards, made her a more interesting character for me. Madame Beck, also, is an extraordinary creation who is the compelling presence in any scene she appears in. However, alongside these two fascinating characters you have distinct, and perhaps boring, types of the 'good doctor', the 'flirt' the 'precocious child grown up into a splendid woman'. Half of the novel felt manufactured and the other half felt original.

The descriptions of place were, though, remarkable, particularly when Lucy walks around Villette at night and stumbles upon a party. Equally, the mystery of the ghostly nun adds atmosphere to the centre of the novel. There are some memorable scenes, including the aforementioned fete scene between Lucy and M. Paul Emanuel, but also the moment when Lucy wakes up in a familiar yet unfamiliar setting and finds herself amongst friends.

This novel blends the journey of one individual with the world around her. The religious barrier that erects itself at various times is both integral to the story and frustrating to the reader. I have to say, though, I hated the ambiguous ending. Everybody else got a final send-off but the character I've spent hundreds of pages trying to like is denied finality - it meant I concluded Villette with the same ambivalent feeling I'd read most of the book with.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Classic Film Review: Bachelor Mother (1939)

Bachelor Mother stars Ginger Rogers as sales clerk Polly Parish. She's finishing a temporary Christmas stint at a department store owned by J.B Merlin (Charles Coburn) and David Merlin (David Niven) and, when out searching for a new job, she finds a baby being abandoned at a foundling home. She picks it up and, when the door opens, she's presumed to be the mother. The home contact her boss and David is outraged at the prospect of this 'mother' giving up her child. He lets her keep her job if she'll take back the baby leaving Polly in a bit of a predicament.

I found this hilarious. Ginger Rogers comic timing never fails and she's outstanding opposite David Niven. She also gets to show off some of her dancing skills in a nice scene that involves David storming a dance hall with the baby to try and get her to take responsibility. There are some excellent moments including the New Year's Eve event where David recruits Polly as his date and tells everyone she's Swedish to save her from talking. The romance aspect is lovely but it's the comedy that wins out.

Charles Coburn's role enlarges as the film goes on and I really enjoyed his interactions with David Niven as father and son argued about the baby that Merlin Snr believes is his grandson. Misunderstandings galore but with a few heartfelt moments dropped in for good measure.

Of course, the attitudes which surround this film are out of date but it indulges in remarkably little condemnation either. The problem seems to be that Polly has abandoned 'her' baby, not that she had one in the first place. Worth a watch not only for the nice sparring between Polly and David but also for the cute interactions between Ginger Rogers and her minute co-star. Lovely scenes and an excellent romantic comedy all round.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

RIP David Jacobs

I was saddened to learn yesterday that broadcaster David Jacobs has died at the age of 87. As the accompaniment to many of my Sunday evenings as I read and listened to what he called 'our kind of music', I shared many pleasant hours in his company although, admittedly, I only became a fan in the twilight of his career.

His personality seemed - and this is backed up by colleagues' assessments of him - such a warm one and he had a treasure trove of stories about the big names he had introduced and worked with over the years. The only consolation for the future is that he consigned these memories to his listeners for us to smile at over and over.

His shows and his voice were one of the best friends I had. I found a bit of a home listening to him and took a fiendish delight in guessing singers before he named them and guessing which song he'd play next in his 'Common Denominator' slot. I suppose what I have to thank him for the most is the introduction to singers I hadn't previously encountered or paid much attention to them; people like Eydie Gorme (who sadly passed away herself last month) and Dorothy Squires. I have to thank him for expanding my knowledge of singers I did know - for instance, the wonderful Julie London. I also have to thank him for introducing me to some of my favourite songs. The one below is 'If I Were You' by Ray Bolger and Eileen Herlie from the musical All American. David championed this song, playing it quite regularly and calling it one of his favourites. Every time I heard it I wanted to buy it and finally got hold of it on iTunes. Ever since, it has made me think of David and his show. I'm sure that'll be the case for a very long time.

RIP David - thank you for sharing 'our kind of music'.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Some Wise Words - Charlotte Bronte

A while ago, after reading Agnes Grey, I blogged about a passage from that book that resonated with me. Now I've just finished reading Villette by Anne's sister, Charlotte, and a few passages in that jumped out at me. While I didn't really like the book as a whole, some sentences still resonated.

'Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?'

'I did long, achingly, then and for four and twenty hours afterwards, for something to fetch me out of my present existence, and lead me upstairs and onwards. This longing, and all of a similar kind, it was necessary to knock on the head; which I did, figuratively, after the manner of Jael to Sisera, driving a nail through their temples. Unlike Sisera, they did not die: they were but transiently stunned, and at intervals would turn on the nail with a rebellious wrench: then did the temples bleed and the brain thrill to its core.'

'No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.'

I think the next time someone asks me if I'm happy I'll simply tell them 'happiness is not a potato' and see what they make of that...