2015: The Things That Got The Jackdaw Flying

I am a guy who regularly concedes that he can become a little obsessive about his interests and pursuits. I have tried to reign things in a little, and be a bit more discerning about the things that excited me during 2015. There has been a lot, but here are some of my eclectic highs:

Books

Go Set A Watchman.

Yes, I was aware that it was not a bonafide sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. And neither did I think it was a ‘new’ novel, either. But this did nothing to temper my excitement about the publication of this book. For big fans of TKAM like myself, it was, at long last, something else to read by Harper Lee. Come on!  Treat it as a stand alone novel and leave Atticus up there on his pedestal.

image

The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion For Vampire Lovers

Like Watchman, this was not a new book. But nor was it published in 2015, either. A definite highlight of the year was the unexpected discovery that I made, in a second hand book store, of a signed copy of this book. How thrilling to get my hands on a book signed by the Hammer Queen herself, offering ‘lots of fun & millions of fierce little bites-always !!’ Though I may have to change my name to Charlie.

image

The Northlore Series Volume One:Folklore. 

Okay, I know I’m not exactly non-partisan about the following two books, but how could a banner year for me not be a highlight? In addition to a poem of mine being included in this anthology, called Mara, My Love, my first published fiction featured in the form of a short story, entitled And The Snow Came Down. Volume Two is to follow.

image

Heading North. 

The next stage in my publishing journey was my very own poetry collection, published in December by Nordland Publishing. I was, and am, very proud to be featured as one of the Songs Of The North poets. After getting my hands on my very first solo collection, my appetite has been whetted!

image

 

Travel

In September I fulfilled a long held ambition to visit Sweden, spending four great nights in the capital, Stockholm. Next in my sights is Malmö, including a journey over the Öresund Bridge to Denmark to meet up with an old school friend. I may have to wait until 2017, though. Christmas cleared me out.

image

Small Screen

The Bridge. 

Speaking of the Öresund Bridge, I was much excited by the return to our screens of the joint Swedish-Danish crime series, Broen. I love this programme, one of the best things I have seen on television for a long time, and had been counting down the days until Season Three debuted in the UK. In the plethora of crime dramas that seem to dominate our television sets at the moment, I don’t think there is any character more  interesting and intriguing than that of Swedish police officer Saga Norén, played by Sofia Helin. This season lived up to the standards set by the previous two, and for the first time we saw a vulnerability in Saga. In no time at all I found myself drawn in again, both fearful and rooting for Saga. Now in my greed I want a Season Four!

image

Doctor Who. 

As an unashamed Whovian, I have been a little disappointed with some of the writing for Capaldi’s Doctor, (even though I do like his portrayal of the Time Lord), but the 2015 Christmas special was a highlight. Whereas some episodes have been too convoluted in a seeming attempt to be ‘clever’, this was a straight, enjoyably old fashioned adventure romp. River Song is a delight, and that moment (pictured) when she recognises the Doctor (who she had only known during Matt Smith’s tenure) for who he really was, was profoundly moving. But then I’m just a sentimental softie at heart.

image

Big Screen

Star Wars The Force Awakens. 

The nerd in me was counting down, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. The moment when Han Solo and Chewbacca unexpectedly emerged onto the screen again for the first time, well, yes, the sentimental softie escaped again. I loved the film, but something occurred in it that I am biting my tongue not to say. Somehow I have managed to avoid venting my spleen as I’m mindful of spoilers for those who have not caught the film yet. BUT IT RUINED MY WHOLE DAMN CHRISTMAS! My wife, who hasn’t seen the film and cares not a jot about spoilers, told me several times to get over it as it was ruining her Christmas too. You will have to see it to discover what upset me so, or call back to Jackdaw in a month or so. There has been a great disturbance in the force.

image

Music

The Beatles. 

Many times over the last eighteen months or so (since I first started using it) I have complained about my favourite group of all time not being available on Spotify. I discovered some great new groups on there, but I was unable to fall back on my default musical love. Then suddenly Beatles fans everywhere were granted an extra Christmas present by the news that the Fab Four were now available for streaming. Oh how I have already plagued my poor, beleaguered wife and children! Doing the pots, doing anything-every single Beatles album was accessible. And now I’m thinking of playlists 🙂 Here’s to 2016. You’ve got a lot to live up to.

image

Watchman Set, Read, Gone. No Spoilers!

I finished the book in two days. And, after the loooong wait, I loved it.

But it has to be read not as a To Kill A Mockingbird sequel, or prequel, but as a stand-alone novel, albeit with familiar characters. Perhaps that will negate the sense of expectation for you-but I doubt it!

image

The book is still concerned with the racism of the south at a certain moment in time, but instead of being seen through the innocence of the child Scout, it is now seen through the scathing judgement of the adult Scout: Jean Louise Finch.

It is in effect the first draft of what my favourite book evolved from, and so we must remember that the characters changed and evolved too.

For those of you who hold Atticus in such high esteem, you should maybe be prepared to have your figure of ideal rocked, although it is not so black and white (pun not intended). His brother, on page 265, gives a speech to Jean Louise about her father which he could so easily be giving to any of us who have admired this fictional character for so long.

After being so elated and thankful for the chance to read something-anything-else by Harper Lee, I find myself being greedy again, wishing that she had written more books. Perhaps the one that was meant to be the follow up to To Kill A Mockingbird about someone hunting deer, which was allegedly stolen shortly before completion.

It is up to you if you want to run the risk of shattering the image of your literary heroes and ideals, but I enjoyed it. My copy is already promised to the Polish guy who runs the coffee shop in which I read it in this morning. Might be worth a Latte or two.

Do Not Disturb, Scout Is All Grown Up

What is a guy to do, when he has tons of things that need doing, within a certain time frame, and then the postman knocks on with his copy of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman?

I will tell you:

image

My wife will be pleased that I’ve cancelled all immediate conversation.

See you in a couple of days!

Please Don’t Kill My Mockingbird

I’ve just been blown away by the news that I’ve just heard, and I am usually the most calmest of Jackdaws.

To Kill A Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time, and I have long since reconciled myself to the fact that Harper Lee was not going to have any more books published. The frustration of this is up there with the split up of The Beatles, the deaths of John Lennon and Jeff Buckley, and the abandonment of poetry by Arthur Rimbaud at the age of twenty one. Oh, and also my inability to master the guitar.

The young Rimbaud.

The young Rimbaud.

But now I have heard that there is a new Harper Lee book to be published, the book that she originally wrote in the 1950’s and put aside on the recommendation of her publisher. It seems that this book is set twenty years after Mockingbird, and deals with the adult Scout grappling with personal and political issues on returning to Maycomb after visiting her father, Atticus, (that long-held ideal of fatherhood) in New York.

My #1, discerning reader that I am.

My #1, discerning reader that I am.

Apparently this book, entitled Go Set A Watchman, was written first, but when the publisher was taken with Scout’s childhood flashbacks, he or she persuaded Lee to tell that story instead, and so To Kill A Mockingbird was born. But now, sixty years later, that original manuscript has been discovered, and is being released on July 14th. A sequel to Mockingbird, but written first.

I really don’t know how to feel about this. I have never been so excited about the release of a book in my life, but that excitement is also laced with fear. Fear that, after all this time, that first book will not measure up. That, unexpected though this new book is, it will somehow fall short of a book that has to many, I included, set an impossible standard to follow.

I’m going to read it, of course I am. How could I not? But as that publication date nears, I fear that it is going to scare the hell out of me. I can already hear my wife:

“Get a grip for God’s sake! Get a grip!”

But I have waited for this since I was an awkward sixteen year old in my English Literature class.

Now:Amazon pre-order here I come.

Our marriage is going to be sorely tested.