I had high hopes for Walking the Lights by Deborah Andrews. It’s been shortlisted for this year’s The Not the Booker Prize; it’s published by an independent Scottish publishing house that gave us last year’s The Not the Booker Prize winner (Fishnet by Kirsten Innes); it’s set in Glasgow, and its blurb promises that it ‘perfectly evokes 90s Britain and those living on the margins, while others prosper’. A winning combination, I thought.
I’ve been a member of Glasgow Women’s Library pretty much for as long as I’ve been in Glasgow. Over that nine and a half years, I’ve endured the most brain crushing boredom of being paradoxically unemployed whilst in a full-job; sobbed with the grief of a failed relationship and skipped through the butterfly tingles of a new one; wept at the difficulties of breast-feeding; had half a dozen different hair cuts/ hair colours/ glasses; delighted in the neighbourliness of our street; shed tears at the school gates on the first day of primary one and tried a plethora of different diet regimes but largely stayed the same size. In sum, I have lived my thirties as many women do – it’s been a decade of change. Possibly the one thing that has stayed constant over this time has been the Glasgow Women’s Library Book Group. Friends, addresses, priorities and ambitions have all morphed, but the last Thursday of each month predictably and solidly is our Book Group.
Just to set your minds at ease. This is not about sex with or by Bill Oddie. This is a review of the Glasgow book festival Aye Write, where I attended two different sessions – one about David Spiegelhalter’s book Sex By Numbers and one about Bill Oddie’s new book Unplucked. But… I made you look you dirty chook!
David Spiegelhalter has a unique talent. He can take something as awkward as (hushed tone please) _sex_ and make it humorous, and then take something as dull as statistics and make it interesting.
If you go on to the Lipton Tea website, it tells you in small print that ‘Tea is not a substitute for fruits or vegetables, which provide a wide range of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Please consult your doctor regarding a diet/nutritional plan that is right for you’. I wonder if wine has the same confined nutritional value? Surely not…
Meanwhile I had to go to Wikipedia to confirm a ghost of a rumour; that Thomas Lipton was a Glaswegian. Raised in the Gorbals he finished his life as a Knight Commander of the Victorian Empire. He is buried in our Necropolis; I may need to make a pilgrimage.
This is the kind of novel that makes the Glasgow marketing chaps and business brethren curl their toes. How can Glasgow shed its grime-infused, murderous-capital, criminal-underbelly stereotype when wee women keep writing about it? In a city where poverty resides in every second postcode, the marketing machine simply can’t ignore the side of Glasgow that isn’t ‘world class’ in the way we want it to be.
When I refer to women collectively, I am of course referring to Denise Mina, the titan of Glasgow crime and author of the Garnethill trilogy and the Alex Morrow series. The End of the Wasp Season was, literally, a book I couldn’t put down. I loved the attention to detail – the reference to the speed bumps in Castlemilk particularly sticks in my mind.