Lincoln Drill Hall

Lincoln Drill Hall
Lincoln Drill Hall

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

This is teen fiction set in the late 18th century. It begins with an engaging heroine, Cat, an orphan who is 'adopted' by a theatre company. I can see parallels with Lyra in her Oxford College. Within the first 60 pages Cat has been involved in s street fight as a result of protecting a black child actor. She earns a beating for her efforts. The book is evidence of the popularity of Julia Golding.
The language is slightly archaic as is often found in historical fiction and I wonder to what extent this helps.
There are humorous characters. I watched Star Wars for the first time last evening. I was struck by the importance of the droid side kicks in adding humour and providing the child viewer with a friend.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The nationalisation of capital

Earlier this month interest rates went to an new low, the rate current in the year of my birth. This places what is happening in a different context: it is no longer about a theoretical world of money; it is about the lives of the baby boomers. We began in the post war reconstruction, although we didn't know it, we had never had it so good. We moved into the white heat of technology and the fear or expectation of socialism. Perhaps neither happened. Then into Europe and winters of discontent, millions unemployed. From here the unions were crushed and deregulation first appeared, but in the name of financial proberty, the day of the monetarist. I suppose we then went into never never land as the western economy grew on a fiction, or perhaps two fictions, that financial services create wealth and that asset values will always rise giving everyone infinite scope for personal borrowing. The merry-go-round then came to a shuddering halt and many fell off.
We have witnessed central government taking on what is, in effect, that irrational borrowing of individuals: a negative income tax of some sort. Commentators are talking about a new capitalism. I wonder what this might mean. Will we, some years hence, read a party manifesto arguing for the privatisation of money? At current interest rates, capital has meagre reward. Would anyone want it?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Pension Scheme funding

No, don't go to sleep; this one matters. You will recall the interplay between three or four numbers which drive the result of an actuarial valuation: inflation, wage increases, pension increase and equity premium. On these four hang all the law and the profits [sic]. A key question is the equity premium post credit crunch. The FTSE is where is was ten years ago, having been 50% higher both last year and twelve years ago. The equity premium is the amount by which returns from equities will exceed those from gilt edged stock (government bonds). The argument has to be that the premium will now be considerably higher; the starting point being considerably lower. This assumes that in the fullness of time the market will once again rise to 6000. I recall that when it did first time round, I thought it has assumed the growth for he next ten years. (One day I must follow my instincts.)
The question is whether it will rise again, or whether we truly are in a new world.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Engelby

Sebastian Faulkes takes his reader through territory which will be familiar to men and women or a certain age. Some of the territory was only previously seen, or rather imagined, behind closed door: the excesses of bullying at a public school, recreational drug habits. Other territory is more directly familiar, working life in London in the eighties. The first person narration is so wonderfully direct. Often it is a conversation with the reader. Time ebbs and flows but the navigation is well signposted. There are cameos from elsewhere: bits from the worlds of Birdsong and Charlotte Grey.

Half way and two things occur to me. He's writing a blog. Actually he is writing a blog of our generation. When I posted my first note there was something hovering in the mind which I wasn't quite ready to write. It is about war and the generation to which the author and I belong. We are certainly tinged with guilt. As Engleby puts it, his grandfather fought in the Great War and his father in the second; all we have to combat is feminism (page 198 if you don't believe me). His blog is wide ranging as he takes us through the events and personalities of our shared lives.
The second point to occur is that the character seems to be running along OK on increasingly interesting work supported less and less by pills and booze. The flip side of this is that before with less interest and more booze there must have been an imbalance. So the hints start about Jen. I had wondered at the time and no doubt will be kept wondering. The trouble is that when a possibility such as this emerged in a novel, the instinct is the read as quickly as possible to find out. It will be interesting to see what he does to grab attention to other things.

This is clever writing. Jen was painted in such a good light that whoever killed her demands capital punishment at the very least. Yet, we have spent time with Engleby, we have suffered with him, found a little bit of happiness with him. I find myself reading more and more slowly. I don't want to see what now appears inevitable, that he killed her. One particular way Faulkes achieves this is through the two time frames. It is masterly.

It has taken a long time to get there, with the interruptions of daily life, but it has been so worthwhile. I seem to recall someone saying that they don't always finish a book. In this case (using the immortal words from Pretty Women) BIG MISTAKE.
I think I mentioned in an earlier blog the way that Faulks seems to be writing all our stories (that is those of us of a certain age). At the end of Engleby he dreams or fantasises perhaps that he is Jen and that the story could so easily have run differently. Not infrequently Engleby makes comments about genetics and the overwhelming similarity we have to other species; the point being that the differences are so marginal. So Engleby could so easily have been different, not bullied, not unhappy, not driven to killing the girl he loved and so longed to be loved by.
It is the experience of everyman, life is steered by marginal differences but to the most huge consequence. The chance of being born in England or Ethiopia.
Having now read quite a few of his work I think I can see that it is only by writing that a good writer becomes better.