Transworld BlogTour: Our Memory Like Dust

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Our Memory Like Dust. HBI was really pleased to have been invited to be part of the blogtour for Transworld Books and to read Gavin Chait’s second novel: “Our Memory Like Dust”. I love reviewing books, mainly because I love reading but it also helps me use my English Literature degree!

“Our Memory Like Dust” is a bit like a rubber band ball. It takes a while to find the end but once it’s there, you’re on board. It’s a multi-narrative, location and temporal story driven by Gaw Gon, a god who appears as a baboon, able to draw memories from people and view them like films.

As you can tell (and regular readers know), I normally lean towards YA/bildungsroman type novels, mainly in current-ish times and usually with a twist. For example: “The Time Traveler’s Wife” – it’s a love story where one half of the couple has trouble staying located in time.

(c) David Fisher

“Our Memory Like Dust” was a departure out of  my usual comfort zone, and I enjoyed the change of pace. I talked to author Gavin Chait, to find out a bit more about it – click on the link below for the storify timeline!

Some question and answers we did offline – there was so much to discuss!:

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Travelling in Mozambique 20 years ago with a group of Nigerian migrants, listening to their stories, and wondering about the myths inherent in mass refugee crises. This was shortly before the rather awful floods that came through there a few weeks later, and we ended up walking out through central Mozambique after the truck we were travelling in sank in a swamp.

What five books would you take to a desert island?

Actually covered this in quite some detail for Transworld:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/five-books/2016/sep/gavin-chait-five-books/

Do you have to have read your first book to tie in with “Our Memory Like Dust”?

No, definitely not (and it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever write a series). However, if you do, you may find a deeper theme in how characters and narratives echo. Plus, the importance of names…

Who are the authors who inspire you?

Not so much authors as creatives. Sure, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Mikhail Bulgakov and Alan Paton, but also Ai Weiwi, Sylvie Guillem, Akram Khan, Jocelyn Pook, Ismael Lo, Johnny Clegg, Emel Mathlouthi, Desmond Tutu … the list goes on.

What are you reading now?

Not reading much fiction. I find it strangely difficult to read fiction while I’m writing fiction. I mostly spend time reading reference material. So at the moment it’s all yacht repair manuals, physics textbooks and a fair number of accounts of various disasters (Into Thin Air, Annapurna, Force 10, Outside Magazine’s ‘Best of’ …)

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

Coffee … coffee … single origin, medium roast, preferably Ethiopian done as pour-over, AeroPress or flat white. And I love ocean kayaking. Being out on my own in the middle of nowhere is the place I find my centre.

Thank you Gavin, and thanks to Transworld for the BlogTour! Follow on twitter with #OurMemoryLikeDust

The Girls – Emma Cline

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the girls

I was interested to read this book, and it was a good read. It’s the story of a girl who was ‘almost’ – almost remembered, almost revered/reviled. In the right place at the wrong time.

 

Evie is a middle aged woman who is house-sitting for a friend in California, when her friend’s estranged son and his young girlfriend visit unexpectedly. She is encouraged into telling her story of how she was part of a cult when she was a teenager.

 

The story is told in flashbacks, as vignettes, snapshots of young men and women living together in the Summer of Love era. The days are hot, the food is scarce and they live on lust and drugs.

 

Evie’s story is wistful, and because there isn’t really anything about the thirty years inbetween now and then, it feels like she’s been stuck in time, not being able to move forward from that episode. Without introducing spoilers, I thought that Evie regretted her part in it, and wished for something more. Something more impressive.

 

The book was a good read and I thought it was well written, but there was something lacking for me. I expected there to be something else coming round the corner, and it never did.

Number 15 – Luxembourg Night Marathon

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After doing the Rotterdam marathon in April in horribly warm weather (that was the same day as the Norwich Half), we looked forward to the Night Marathon because of course it wouldn’t be hot.

 

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Numbers pick up!

Forecast the week before was 30degrees +, and as we went into the weekend it stayed that way. Great for a long bank holiday weekend – not so good for long running!

 

I hadn’t been to Luxembourg before, and while it was quite scenic, I found it to be surprisingly seedy. We stayed in an IBIS hotel which appeared to be in the middle of the red light district, next to the train station. Ladies in very high heels sat outside the neighbouring clubs and men asked if we wanted to buy any recreational substances. All very exciting.

 

I learned from the last night marathon I did (Tromso) not to eat too much during the day, so I made sure I had a normal sized lunch. It was really hot.

 

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The beer was delicious

The expo is past the airport but buses were easy to get around on and were a flat rate of €2 each way. The start and finish are at the expo – The Box exhibition centre, which was quite handy. The expo itself was decent enough and the goody bag had loads of things in it – a Luxembourg buff, waffle, orange, sweat band, temporary tattoos…

 

The race started at 7pm and we stood outside in the pens for about half a hour before we got going. It was 32 degrees and it was hard work standing still – this was going to be tough.

My husband and I had talked about doing it together –my training hadn’t ramped up since Rotterdam’s heatwave and his hadn’t been as consistent as he’d have liked. We were still pretty confident that we could get him a PB – 4.50. Oh, the naivety of youth!

 

The race was friendly and we set off in good spirits. Within the first mile or two we realised we would be running between aid stations, spaced around 2k apart. It was just too hot to try anything else. This was a good strategy as two of our friends DNFd at mile 17 ish, with nothing left in the tank.

The aid stations were well stocked with water, cola, energy drink and fruit but I was surprised to see spectators and relay runners who had finished miles before taking from them and chatting, on the course. It’s the first race I’ve been in where I’ve felt the the marshalls were there to stop you from cheating and not entirely to help you.  The course is a series of twists and turns and out and backs, so they obviously do need to keep an eye on this.

 

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Mid race – thanks to the wonderful Alig, spectator extraordinaire

We passed through half way in 2h27 – still just about on target if we could do a negative split.  It’s also the only race I’ve done where you can choose to drop down to the half while you’re on the course – you just take the left hand turn called ‘Half Marathon’. That was a tough choice!

 

It’s a really lonely course and I was glad to have my husband with me – don’t do it on your own. There’re only 2000 marathoners and it was a bit unnerving run/walking through parks with no marshalls, no barriers and only the mist to keep us company.

Conversely, there are bits through the city centre which were obviously designed to be fun but I found to be a bit claustrophobic – the spectators were drunk by then and it was all quite close. Some of them were laughing at us too, which wasn’t very nice. I shouted at a couple of mean women who mockingly told us to ‘allez’ and then cackled at my ‘merci’. Not kind. The people of Luxembourg do not speak English willingly, and we got a couple of blanks when we didn’t speak French beyond the standard touristy phrases. After spending time in countries where  the inhabitants love speaking English, this was a bit of a surprise.

The last four k was a slog back to the exhibition centre and the finish. We picked up a guy who was sitting on the road – we got him up and walking and I told him in my pidgin French that he had to keep moving to get his bag with his clothes and beer. He said he wasn’t ill or sore, just tired, so I hope our gee up made him keep walking as we jogged slowly away.

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Finally we were coming down the ramp with the wax lamps beside us, red hot after so long alight. We ran into The Box for our first indoor finish, and were cheered over the line by cheerleaders and announced too, hand in hand and very relieved to have finished in 5 hours and 26 minutes.  We got our medals, which are pretty nice,  and were cheered in by our friends – one of whom finished 90 minutes later than expected due to the heat.

 

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Recovering on Monday with some nice walking about in the caves

Although I know that the heat was a massive factor in my not enjoying the race, but I wouldn’t do it again. I loved running with my husband on his second marathon and would definitely do that again – maybe we’ll train properly next time!

If you really feel like that review sold it to you, here’s the link: http://www.ing-night-marathon.lu/en/

If you’re looking for a night marathon, do Tromso’s Midnight Sun – friendly, small field with a nice route.

Marathon 15 done – next stop, two weeks of recovery followed by some summer training to get me in shape for Chicago Marathon!

Big Little Lies

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I read Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, because I was fascinated while watching the series and wanted to know more about the characters. It was also recommended by a friend of mine with similar taste to mine, always a good bet!

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This is the book review, but I want to draw out some parallels between the two, especially as Moriarty was involved in the process to the extent that she’s a credited producer.

 

Jane, Madeline and Celeste all have children in the same class at an idyllic school in a beautiful beachfront town. It’s Australia in the book (Monterey in the TV series).  It’s an affluent community, with lots of powerful egos hiding behind a façade of politeness.

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The book starts at the end – an affectation which normally irritates me, if I’m honest, as it feels like lazy writing to hook your reader in at the beginning (Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, trod this path, I seem to remember). However, the initial hook – a murder – proves itself to be not the only thing keeping the writing going, as the characters come to life to tell their stories in the context of the climax.

 

I’m not going to go into detail as I don’t want to spoil it, but I thought the interwoven relationships, the exploration of the teenage daughter rebelling, the awkwardness of a split family remade elsewhere and the unlikely friendships we find ourselves in, was really interesting.  Beyond the crime, I was thinking a lot about the voices of those characters even after finishing the book.

 

There were a couple of reveals that came as a surprise, and while I might have pieced it together if I’d tried hard enough, it was really fun for it to come together.

 

I would recommend this, and I’m probably going to read some more Liane Moriarty too. I’d like to see her books depart from the groove she might be in, judging by the synopses of the next books I’ve read, but only to stretch the writing and learn new things.

Rotterdam Marathon #14

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Yes, well. This post has taken ages to write. In fact, I don’t think I am going to write much.

I trained hard and focussed on MP – 9:07min/mil. I wanted to beat my PB of 4:12, which has stood since 2014. I wanted to get a 3:xx – maybe even a 3:55…

Training was fine – I had missed a week as I had a really rubbish cold and cough which was bronchial, so I could run but couldn’t sleep as every time I laid down I coughed up a lung. Antibiotics fixed that but put paid to a PB attempt in Colchester half marathon, although I still managed a sub 2.

Six days a week was exhausting but fine and I never dreaded a run. I eked out rest time and worked out if I did an early run on Wednesday morning my rest would be until Friday morning.

Rotterdam was hot. The weeks before had been spent packing to move house. I work away from home. I had had a cold during training. I didn’t sleep well the previous week. All of those excuses, but what it comes down to is that I failed to maintain MP, or close to it, beyond the first five miles. In fact, it was my worst time (excluding the trail marathons) ever.

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Heartbroken. I love running but after four years of four months of hard training twice a year, of 5am wake ups and missing social events and occasions because I have a run to do, only to choke on race day, I’m pretty close to done.

I have Luxembourg at the end of May and Chicago in October. I’ll do those without any kind of time in mind, and that’ll be it for me.Sixteen is a good number. I’m not strong enough to cope with another round of hope, hard work and optimism followed by disappointment and shame.

Volunteering at VMLM!

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After 14 marathons and dozens of other races, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the London Marathon. A friend of mine is part of an Essex running club who always put a team forward for Mile 17, as you’d do in a local race to support. This year they had the opportunity to put a new team in the Mall, and he asked some of his friends in our online running club, the BCRC.

 

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Bright and early. That eyeliner was definitely not around later…

The first fifty who’d put their names on the list were picked, and my husband and I were asked to head to Embankment for 7:45am, to pick up our security passes and t-shirts. It was a really early start (4.30am alarm, yawn!) but I was so excited  didn’t really notice.

 

We got out orange tshirts from our team leader, who also gave us our photo passes. That lanyard is coming to work with me! We walked to the Mall where the overall team director briefed us on what to do. We were giving out goody bags – a fantastic place to be. We spent the next couple of hours opening boxes and working out strategies on how to get rid of the rubbish, which side was open first, etc. We saw the mini marathon come through and in no time at all, the wheelchair race had finished.  David Weir went past us!

 

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Pointing out the bleedin’ obvious, a la Paris and the BCRC way

The Elites were directed into their VIP area so we didn’t see many of them, but it was so exciting just to be close by. I spotted Chrissie Wellington striding through, and Martin Yelling of Marathon Talk.

The next six hours passed in a blur of runners and shouting and congratulating. Sweaty hugs and steadying hands.  I tied a space blanket around one guy and politely refused another’s request for a second t-shirt for his girlfriend.  I saw a few NRRs and I think I spotted  CONAC, but as there were two sides I missed a lot of people!

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The amazing @befitforaking at the finish of the VMLM17 after doing the Boston/London double!

That sentiment about all of humanity being visible in a marathon is so true. I saw so  many tears, and pain, but also joy and lifts from fellow humans. Conversations between runners about the miles they’d run together, the race they had had. I was astonished at the amount of people who stopped to thank us for our time – it was so lovely and thoughtful and also unnecessary.

 

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Thanks Shake Shack Westfield, that was delicious!

We finally got home to Norwich about 11pm, tired and footsore but so happy from being able to give back a little bit of every supporter and marshal in every race. Racing and running are brilliant, but I think it’s so important to do what you can every so often, to let others carry on and to acknowledge the wonderful people who make races happen.

Well done to all of the runners – you are all heroes!

Rotterdam Week One – the Hanson plan

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Date Workout Time taken Mileage average pace how did it feel?
2 Not NYD 10k 54.14 6.2 08:42 3
3 5 or Speed 46:28:00 4.92 09:27 4
4 4 or MP 6 39:46:00 4.25 09:21 5
5 Off
6 5 or 7 50:09:00 5.29 09:29 3
7 4 or 6 01:26:56 09:08 09:34 2
8 6 or 12 01:22:36 08:44 09:47 4

Hello!

So that was week one. A race, some speedy miles and more than a 100% increase from last week’s mileage. Woops.

  • Wednesday’s run had a couple of speedy miles in the middle: 8:44 and 8:38, and they felt pretty good.
  • Sunday’s run felt pretty leaden but I did chuck some good hills in there – Harvey Lane and Rose Lane, and managed to get up those with only a small rest at the top.
  • The scale is 1-5, 1 being terrible and 5 being pretty great, so I think I did pretty well this week, in a time where I went back to commuting to the office and back to work properly after the Christmas break.

Next week: a 10mile tempo run on Tuesday followed by a 5M MP run on Wednesday,woo!

This was the parkrun I was honoured to take part in on Saturday:

http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/health/record_number_of_runners_pay_tribute_to_father_and_athlete_mark_ring_at_norwich_parkrun_event_1_4840522