Zone Doubt, a.k.a. 'Surreal Я Us'...
Joules, trusted by... dozens... to make a drama out of your crisis...
:: JAT :: WaveWrights :: Publications :: Joules... on writing [on hiatus] ::
I live to write. It's not wise to get in my way.
August 2011: the earlier posts in this blog are a mess, the result of me changing the format some time ago. I'm working to edit the entire blog from the beginning, but with over 4K posts and sodall time for such luxuries it's going to take a while... [02/09/16 - Now reached 09/10/2004]
If you come across any words you don't recognise in this blog, take a look at the Taylorspeke Glossary in the left-hand infopane, you'll usually find a definition there.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Happy (Celtic) New Year!
Changing haddock and the autumn garden...
Remember that nearly-dead little Japanese prunus Ken picked up for me almost free a few years back, trusting in my ability to revive it? This is it in its autumn coat! I'll try to remember to photograph it in the spring, when it's covered with tiny blushing white flowers - just adorable!
And this is the second blueberry (left) and the pyracanthus, both looking splendid. Have to admit the garden is exceptionally colourful this year. It's a real pleasure to get out and enjoy it while the weather is still mild. Although I shall be happy when my legs and arms stop aching from the hour's worth of weeding of the square that I did yesterday...
Today I prepared pots and compost for next year's cucumbers and tomatoes, and organised the frost-free environet for the plants that are overwintering in the greenhouse. Fingers crossed everything will be fine!
Kai's back to school tomorrow and I get back to the loom.
Is it just me, or are some recent ads simply inexplicable. Nonsensical. Stoopid, even.
What, for example, is the tune all those people are trying to 'sing' when blowing on their Heinz cream of tomato soup? I assume it's meant to be something well known, but I can't make head nor tail of it.
Then there's the latest Lenor ad. I can't remember the exact words at the moment so will try to get them tomorrow. At any rate, it doesn't make much sense...
But the one that really makes me blink is the new Giovanni Rana ad. Relatively attractive young man knocks on his beautiful Italian neighbour's door carrying what looks like a roasting tin full of blackened, smoking... things, and says he has a friend coming for dinner - can she help him? She makes him Giovanni Rana spagbol tortellini (the one we like), and asks him when his friend is arriving. He ushers her into a seat saying, "She's here."
Let me see if I've understood this. He asks neighbour to help him impress his friend by the obvious ploy of pretending (pretending? Hah!) to be completely incompetent. Taking pity on him, she cooks the meal using her pasta supplies, her electricity (or gas, couldn't see), and sits at her chair at her table with her crockery/cutlery to eat the meal she cooked - and this is supposed to endear him to her? Impress her? I'd be more tempted to throw the bloody plate at him! It's not even cheeky - just creepy and manipulative. [shudder]
On a more positive note, I put on the Koyaanisqatsi DVD, and fell in love with Philip Glass's music all over again...
It was extremely interesting. Kai listened, then asked if Glass had written some of the music for Watchmen. I said no, Tyler Bates wrote that - at which Kai frowned and said the Dr Manhattan on Mars section sounded just like what we were listening to. A couple of minutes chasing down google links revealed that in fact that piece of music is based on two pieces from Koyaanisqatsi! And Kai is now keen to hear more Glass, so I suppose my rep as a cool mum still stands...
Later edit - found the pasta ad on Youtube...
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Everything is in shades of red and gold now...
Contemplative cat is contemplative...
(Tyjer under the bay tree. This used to be Ryme's favourite spot.)
Friday, October 29, 2010
Right, what have we been up to...
Orthodontist appointment for Kai yesterday morning. Ortho is very pleased with the way things are going: he only needs to wear the elastic band thingy at night now, instead of all the time, and the right side of his jaws is now perfectly aligned. She wants him to be seen by the specialist - we were lucky and they were able to squeeze in an appointment for the end of December - but apart from that she thinks the course of treatment should be finished in four to six months. 'ooray! It feels like he's been wearing the braces for forever...
On the way back I took him to Go Outdoors and bought him a pair of sturdy boots for any (potential, expected) bad winter weather: now only Ken left to get his and we're almost set. I still need to buy YakTrax for us - at least two pairs - but otherwise we're pretty much set for the winter: we all have warm coats, and K&K have hats, scarves and gloves (I can't bear wearing hats, and scarves make me overheat. Gloves I can bear if it's really cold. Heh. And on that subject it's probably about time I moved from T-shirts and sandals into something a little more winter-apt...)
Have also finally bestirred myself to register with the Stirling Uni Alumni Association. [rolls eyes] I graduated so long ago they had trouble finding my records, and the change(s) of name didn't help. Now trying to find the time to read through all the previous news mags.
Sodastream did get back to me with a list of Bristol stockists of the gas cylinders. Most of them are out at Cribbs Causeway, but two are over at Avon Meads Retail Park (where the Showcase Cinema is) and hence eminently walkable. Rang them both: The Range only stocks the small (35 litre) cylinders, but right next door is Comet, and they had both the 60 litre cylinders and a special offer on the old style cola syrup bottles - buy three get one free! It made the shopping as a whole a little heavier than I wanted (courtesy of the necessity of diving into Sainsbug's on the way back) but it will keep us going for a while, and save having to buy bottles of coke and tonic.
It's supposed to be nice weather tomorrow: need to get a little gardening done.
Oh, and Welcome to your new Home, Lutra! (About bloody time! Hope you really enjoy it there. Try growing tomatoes...)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
K&K meandered off to Taunton to the County Records Centre this afternoon (Ken needed to do a little research, and Kai went along to enjoy the bus rides). I managed a little gardening, a considerable amount of client site stuff, and even a little writing.
Then we watched my latest Lovefilm rental, Frozen, which is actually quite good.
And I found this, which had me laughing out loud as I was reading. I mean -
"Okay," Bobby says, "listen up. Nick is distracting Greg, but I don't know how long we've got. We need birthday suggestions for him. Pronto."
It's irresistible! (OK, makes more sense if you have at least a nodding acquaintance with CSI...)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
... zoom again. Still need clones/immortality/T.A.R.D.I.S...
Monday, October 25, 2010
So, Legend of the Guardians...
A fairly straightforward and simple plot - "typical 'save-the-(owl)-world story" as Kai said on leaving the cinema - and the characters, while cute and well-realised, aren't earth-changing, but then, we went to see it for the 3D animation, which is truly beautiful. I'd go so far as to say the film must be seen in 3D to get the full benefit. Enjoyable and lovely to watch.
Now planning to see Deathly Hallows Pt 1 and Tron Legacy in 3D (better let Kai see the original Tron first though) and looking forward to Voyage of the Dawn Treader in December.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
So... greenhouse is now half-lagged - the cold half, and I might even be able to save the four cucumbers I have developing, although since the weather is due to get below freezing tonight I'll be very lucky if they survive the night - and the physalis and pepino plants are covered with good quality envirofleece. One of the blueberries is repotted and the planter ready for the second one, once more leaves have dropped. And the citrus plants are well fed, ready to be covered tomorrow (I think they'll be all right tonight. They're a little trickier to keep healthy over the winter, as apparently too much sunshine in cold weather, or too drastic changes of temperature, can lead to damaging leaf-drop, and that I don't want).
Didn't manage to make time for orchid care (takes about two hours these days) - aiming to get that done tomorrow. Also need to cut down the beans and starting pruning the asparagus bed, the foliage is now turning brown. Then the veg bed needs digging over, and it's nearly time to get the peas planted in cardboard pots, to give them a good start before planting out.
In other news... there is no other news. Well, not anything I can post here, yet, anyway.
Hoping to see Legend of the Guardians in 3D tomorrow with Kai. Directed by Zack Snyder, who did Watchmen - be interesting to see how he tackles it.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Gah, knackered... Had a great day though, several hours plus lunch at Cadbury Garden Centre, Congresbury, then we nipped next door to Rowntrees (where I found the long struts I've been looking for to create my brassica cage for next year). All very successful: found a decent pair of bypass loppers for Ken (for Yule, so we don't have to keep borrowing Dave-next-doors'), a laaaarge bag of compost for me to start my seedlings off next year, some good frost-free fleece to cover my greenhouse plants over the winter, and got advice about and bought a safe pesticide for my orchids (still have mealy bug and scale insect) from one of their orchid experts. And of course Kim and I exchanged all the news.
Tomorrow I'm planning to get the greenhouse plants organised and protected, repot the blueberry that has now lost all its leaves (the other isn't far behind but still has a few days to go), and get some serious orchid care done. And answer all my emails/update client websites: only takes a few offline hours before I'm snowed under again, and I'm too tired right now. There's nothing really urgent.
Oh yes, and the amazon CD order arrived! It was wonderful to listen again - and I'd forgotten how good Heaven 17's Let's All Make A Bomb really is.
I still wonder what the Human League were on when they created Crow and a Baby, though...
Thursday, October 21, 2010
[growl] So, after being forced to buy a new Sodastream because the company are ceasing to make the small sized gas cylinders, we now find that Robert Dyas, from whence we buy our replacement cylinders, have been unable to procure any. And our cylinder has run out. (Usually we'd have a spare but at £18.99 each new we've put off buying one for a bit...)
Oh yes, I can order a replacement online - for £8.99, two pound dearer than Robert Dyas, plus another £5.99 p&p - but I don't see why I should have to. Sodastream are making all this fuss about how great they are and how good their customer service is: last time I had a problem with them (couple of months back) it took me three emails, the last cc-ed to their Head Office, and three phone calls to get a satisfactory result. So I am now awaiting a reply. And in the meantime having to buy bottles of tonic and coke and carry them back from the supermarkets, since I have no way of making them. Pissed off? You bet.
On the plus side, The Lost Room arrived today, and this evening we watched the last two eps. Ye gods it's amazing...
Also finished a major pruning of the bay tree and a goodly bit of weeding the veg bed. Not exactly world-shaking stuff but necessary.
Off to garden centres with Kim tomorrow!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Well, I didn't manage to get the rest of the bay tree pruned, that'll have to be tomorrow. But we did find time for a case from the CSI: Miami board game this evening (picked it up for two quid at the cats' charity shop). Great fun, but not the sort of thing you can play more than once, as the end result doesn't involve an element of chance. Once we've worked through the eight cases we'll pass it on to a charity shop. Then we'll move on to the CSI (Las Vegas) one (same shop, same price)...
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Busy again. Pruned half of the bay tree (other half tomorrow, when my hands have recovered), finished the section of Kai's room we started yesterday - his old computer is now in storage and the workstation in Ken's room (replacing the ancient one that's now dismantled for use as shelving) and Kai's keyboard in its place - and the cat scarer is now positioned in the veg bed. Interestingly, Kai can hear it when it's in operation (but only when he's nearby): I think he's inherited my keen sense of hearing. Though mine's dulled as I've got older - best I can manage now is that I can still hear mosquito whines...
I also went through the multiple piles of old music cassettes Ken had in his study, and chucked out more than half. Then we ordered replacement CDs from amazon: Velvet Underground and Nico, Heaven 17's Penthouse and Pavement, and Human League's Travelogue. I also treated myself to a handful of mp3s - Moving Hearts' Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette and Before the Deluge, Uriah Heep's Choices, Soft Machine's Why are We Sleeping? (I'd forgotten how odd that track is) and finally Spirit's When I Touch You from The 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, an amazing track that still gives me goosebumps even after all this time. (Have I mentioned how altogether happy and appreciative I am that I can now buy mp3s of all my favourite tracks (for 69p each or less, no less) instead of having to buy the whole album? I have now.) I used to drive to these, back when I still had the car (but not When I Touch You. That's a track for speeding, and that's something I tried not to do.)
Even managed a little writing!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Monday shopping. A start on Kai's room. And the second two eps (of six) of The Lost Room. Absolutely brilliant. So good we've ordered it from amazon. Highly recommended!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
There was frost on the grass this morning. "Hm." I thought to myself. "Time to go hunt down my own wolf..."
So after I hung out a couple of washes, I headed off. Kai came with me, across the yellow bridge to Sparke Evans Park, and on to the Sunday market. Where I completely failed to find a wolf. Or a pair of trainers, a new watch for Kai, or a bag for Ken. [grump] Dead loss. But at least it was a really gorgeous day, crisp with a cloudless sky and warm brilliant sunshine. Suppose I'll have to hunt further afield.
Autumn trees in Sparke Evans Park.
This evening we watched the first two eps of my latest Lovefilm rental, The Lost Room - absolutely brilliant! Kind of like a cross between the keymaker from The Matrix, Warehouse 13, with a touch of Narnia thrown in for good measure. It may be a must-have: kept us all enthralled.
Hoping to make a start on Kai's room tomorrow...
Saturday, October 16, 2010
And for once the arrangements were perfect - I left the house at quarter past eleven, got the X39 shortly thereafter, got off at the bus station and straight on to the Bristol Flyer, which got me in to the airport at 12.25: Kai's flight landed at 12.30, though it was another twenty minutes before he appeared through customs. He had a great time, but was hungry and very tired (actually fell asleep on the Flyer) so had to flop for an hour or so before he felt like talking. I took advantage and dived over to Tesco to get his photos developed while he recovered.
The page of photos is here. Not bad for a cheap disposable camera!
There were fireworks going off somewhere in the city when they arrived at 21.35 (local time: Berlin is an hour ahead of us), which was a nice welcome. The Hotel Steps (so called because there were steps and staircases everywhere, it seems) was comfortable and pleasant, although I don't think the meals were quite the size Kai is used to...
They got up at 8 am, had breakfast then headed out to Checkpoint Charlie, which was, by all accounts, very interesting. Then it was onto the Berlin Wall ->
After lunch they spent the afternoon at the Jewish Museum (Kai commented on the 'void' and the 'missing exhibition': I think he found them evocative and maybe disturbing).
They headed back to the hotel for dinner via the shopping mall (pix on the photo page). (Later edit: it's the Sony Centre, according to google earth.)
Berlin street photo. The red bit in the middle of the road is the pedestrian area! ->
In the evening they all went to the TV tower (ticket on the left). This was amazing, by all accounts, with gorgeous views over the city from the panoramic floor, but Kai's camera couldn't cope with the darkness so no photos, unfortunately.
Yesterday it was the Story of Berlin exhibition in the morning and a trip down into a nuclear bunker. (This is twelve metres underground - around 36 foot in English money, which I can envisage far more easily than this new-fangled metric stuff - and there was a list of reasons on the wall as to why it would be pretty much a deathtrap unless you had two weeks notice and the bombs were more than 2 kilometres away...) Then after lunch it was off to the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, then through the Tiergarten to the Soviet War Memorial: back to the hotel for dinner, then the last event of the trip, a visit to the Reichstag.
Brandenburg gate ->
[boggled] I can't believe they crammed so much into a short trip! No wonder Kai's tired. His overall comments are interesting though - the two things that stood out for him are the smell (Berlin is built on swampy ground, apparently, and smells like it, especially when the wind is in a certain direction) and the frightening efficiency of everything (the subways in particular)! But yes, he had a great time, and used his German a lot, which hopefully will help him when the spoken part of the GCSE comes around.
I can relax now. And in case anyone wondered, it wasn't just normal worried parent syndrome - this was also a matter for concern...
We're all chillin' tomorrow!
Friday, October 15, 2010
Signs that winter is nearly here, no. 13: Waking up to find Tyjer snuggled up all warm and cosy on the bed between us, having stolen all Ken's side of the downie...
I had my hair trimmed today, again by Danielle at Casanova. It looks great - I'm very happy with it. Nipped into Sainsbug's on the way back: there were a couple of young women at the entrance offering tasters of Giovanni Rana Rich Italian Bolognese Tortelloni. I tried some - it's seriously tasty - and was told it was on special at the moment, in the chilled foods cabinet (£1.99 each or two for £2.50). So I went to pick some up, only to find there were only two packs left - Prosciutto Crudo & Cheese Cappelletti and Fresh Ricotta & Tender Spinach Tortelloni, neither of which I've ever tried. As I stood debating whether to buy them or not, the lasses came up to the aisle. I pointed out that the packs had all sold out (which was obviously a good thing from their point of view), and they said that if I wanted to buy the last two, they'd give me two packs of the rich bolognese one for free (to avoid disappointment, so to speak)! Not the sort of deal I can resist...
Other than that, it's been a low-key sort of a day. Watched my latest Lovefilm rental, 1969, which is surprisingly enjoyable. Strange that KS should play gentle, romantic figures when younger, and graduate to tough guys in later life. Or maybe it's not so strange...
Sprog back tomorrow.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
It was actually quite nice to both be able to lie in this morning...
Busy day. My specialist orchids are now repotted ready for next spring - and to my surprise and delight... remember I planted three white egret tubers? I now have seven! Fingers crossed for next year. The butterfly orchid tubers, however, didn't look too healthy to me. I've repotted them carefully (and stuck a note on saying not to water until April) and will just have to wait and see.
Did a little online research, and it looks as though my best bet will be to leave my citruses, pepino plants and the physalis in the greenhouse over the winter, but make sure they're protected by bubble wrap. And fully bubble-wrap the greenhouse as well this year (didn't bother last winter as there wasn't much in there). The physalis has flower buds...
Have spent the Yule money from Ken's folks: bought a cat-scarer to try to keep the neighbourhood cats off the veg bed (it's OK during the day, when Tyjer fights them off, but at night it's a nuisance), and the complete Beauty and the Beast. (Yes, I do have a bit of a softer side.)
And then I promised myself I would not look at any other DVDs, until next year at least, and immediately broke my promise when for some wholly inexplicable reason I found myself checking amazon uk for DBZ merchandise. [sigh] There's been a new - uncut, unedited - edition of the anime issued, with (if I've understood the review correctly) the original Japanese language with English subtitles as one of the viewing options. I've been waiting for that for years...
So seasons 1 and 2 are now winging their way to me, to be put away for my birthday. (Those are the only two I want: DBZ is hardly top quality anime, but there are some wonderful charas in these episodes, and I'll enjoy them purely for the nostalgia.)
When I'm going to find time to watch all these (and B5, and the complete first season of Heroes, which I found in a charity shop this morning for £2) is a mystery...
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Right about now EZ6237 is taxiing for take off and Kai is headed to Berlin. I shall now proceed to have kittens until he arrives safely back on Saturday.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I was supposed to take things easy today. I suppose I did, really - dug up the marrows, which have how finished (an easy job, they have extremely shallow, short roots) and composted the dying pepper plants; did a little client site stuff and revamped the JAT site, something that's needed doing for ages.
Back to the loom tomorrow...
Sunday, October 10, 2010
... I really must try to get more than four hours sleep a night...
So, Devon. <snark> The trip started out well - the train was 13 minutes late, and arrived on a completely different platform to the one specified (to be fair, they did announce the change of platform - just when one train was pulling in and another pulling out, so I couldn't hear a thing. First I knew about the change was when everyone suddenly disappeared...) </snark> And then I managed to sit diagonally opposite a young man (student, I suspect) who had been in some sort of run and stank of stale sweat, probably my least favourite of all smells. Fortunately he and his friends got off at Taunton, so I didn't have to suffer for long.
Watched Kiss of the Dragon in the evening (the folks don't have cable and it was the best thing on terrestrial TV). Not bad, although I think mum was a little shocked at dad and I laughing uproariously at the violence (it was funny, completely OTT).
Friday morning mum and I scoured the Exeter charity shops, then I dived into the cathedral to get some photos for Ken: after lunch I tanked out to Heavitree to do the shops while folks went to their dance class. In the evening Wendy and I met up for an excellent evening's chat and laughter (thanks old friend! >8-P )
Saturday morning it was down to Exmouth, again for the shops, then lunch and back to Briz - got back home at 7 pm. All wonderful fun but absolutely knackering...
And today I did five machine washes (three normal and two delicates - the charity shop haul was phenomenal!), a major Tesco shop, a little client site stuff, sorted out Kai's things to go to Berlin on Wednesday (and washed what needed washing), and tended the garden and greenhouse. (Going away is great fun but I always have to catch up on the chores when I get back). Ken has a miserable cold, poor lad, so didn't much feel up to helping...
So I'm still tired. Will try for an early night!
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Back, having had a great time, but no pics and I'm knackered. Will write up properly tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Busy day, but all prepared now. Have a very early start, so heading bedwards very soon.
See y'all Saturday - hopefully with some pics...
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Monday, October 04, 2010
Been pondering going down to Exeter, just for a couple of days, to take down additional Yule presents for my folks and Ken's. Thought originally the end of October would be good - but turns out Kai is off to Germany next week (ye gods where did that time go?) and needs to be met at the airport at midday on the Saturday, so my coming back that morning isn't really an option. Then he's on holiday for two weeks, and then mum is going into hospital at the beginning of November to have ingrowing toenails dealt with (not going into details as she described the op to me despite my objections and it makes me cringe) and has to stay off her feet for six weeks afterwards (yeah right, like that'll happen...) The upshot of all of which is that the only week I can realistically go is this week...
So today - after getting a wash hung out, and washing the kitchen floor, which had become unaccountably and unpleasantly sticky just recently - was spent in town frantically trying to get the rest of the Yule presents bought (fortunately I was able to find just what I was looking for, so chuffed there). Then a Tesco shop was needed, after Kai arrived back from school. It's been a tad busy today.
Run on sentences. We need more of them...
[spooks] was... odd. Still trying to work out how a nerve gas could be infectious.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
I don't particularly like cut flowers - much prefer to see them alive rather than dying - but the weather last night was just horrible, and the winds very high, and my sunflowers were battered to the point that it was a matter of pick what I could before they were completely destroyed. They are rather lovely though, and go perfectly in the lounge.
[bemused] Anyone remember that ep of IT Crowd where they message each other even though they're all in the same room? Should I be worried that Kai and I do the same on Skype even though our desks are all of six foot apart? [g] All very silly. Although, of course, we were sharing favourite YouTube clips (I'd found all of Bowie's Man Who Sold The World - an old fave that's been bought for Yule - tracks and wanted Kai to hear Saviour Machine), which isn't the sort of thing you can do so easily aloud...
... why Saviour Machine...? Maybe it reminds me of HHGTTG? Lexx 4? Fundies?...
This afternoon I decided it was time to see if my cinema software worked - primarily as I wanted a screencap of a favourite image from Lexx season 3. Set the application up for region 2 (somewhat puzzled, as despite saying it started as region free it wouldn't play until I'd set it at 2. Which is a bugger, as I can only change the region five times, and I have DVDs from all over the world. Grump.)
Anyway... After spending an hour trying snapshots and PrtScn from Power Cinema, Irfanview and WMP on my machine in Irfanview, PS and Paint and failing hard, Kai offered to try on his. And it worked first time. Seems I have a problem here (no really? How strange! [glowers] Butch!), and if I want screencaps from... well, anything on film or DVD... Kai will have to make them for me (until I upgrade, anyway).
Here's the pic:
Water, from Fire.
I'd love this as a wall sized poster...
On the subject of Skyping, earlier and à propos of nothing:
universal serial buses
[bemused] Random is good...
Saturday, October 02, 2010
[grump] Irritatingly messy, busy day in which I got a lot done without getting much done. Which makes no sense whatsoever on the surface of it. Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive.
Labels: nowt really
Friday, October 01, 2010
Defining busyness: a little exercise, a little gardening or greenhouse tending, a little dealing with email, a little client site work, a little shopping, a little writing, a little cooking, a little (very little) TV. Little is defined as anything between ten minutes and five hours...
After we'd watched Crusade I commented that it would be good to watch Babylon 5 again, but not to buy as that would be far too expensive. [rolls eyes] So today I get an email from Lovefilm, who are having an extra-special-one-weekend-only-sale - and the B5 boxed sets, usually £44.99 each, were £8.93 each.
"Buy them all." said Ken. "It'll be your birthday present from Kai and I." (But I shall use my usual birthday money from the folks, too, as 45 quid is far too extravagant.) I did suggest we really only needed seasons 1 and 4, but as he pointed out, we do so dislike not having complete collections. And I can't imagine us finding it cheaper anywhere else: even Pink Planet DVDs charge £12.99 minimum for their boxed sets. So we shall introduce Kai to the classic SF that is B5 next spring.
And I'm finally making time to read Skallagrigg (a gift from GoodTwin a good few years ago, if I remember rightly). Wonderful, wonderful book: the prose a little florid and pompous in places but beautiful in others; it's already reduced me to tears twice and I'm only a quarter of the way through. I've recommended it to both Ken and Kai (for when I've finished it).