The BLUE Hour
I started reading at 11am on Sunday and finished the 350+ pages of *The Blue Hour some six hours later, I couldn't put this page turner down - in parts it made me cry in others just sad, I had such a love hate relationship with both 'leading ladies' Tilly and Ava.
Here is my review about a book written in Wrington, North Somerset, whose characters inhabit God's Own County - Cornwall and the Thames valley straddled land of the Home Counties.
Oh my. The posh Padstow boil-in-the-bag fish ‘n’ chips made my bunioned feet recoil with its descriptions of decay and delight.
It is Country Girls meets Maleficent mixed with modernity - a wartime romance which matures into hot cocoa at bedtime with buttock tensing foreplay.
A hot diaphoresis, this is a motherfooker of a book, that mixes a heady cocktail of booze, fags and chewable food.
An 89 million year old harridan and a scorned 30-something become ‘needs must’ roomies in a mix of Cornish sights, sounds and smells.
It is all spliced and spiced with flora, flirting, unfaithfulness, edible seafood and an aged, somewhat malicious/mischievous, older woman and her fear-of-flying young female carer.
Senses drip in the descriptions of sweat, catwalk sashays, peed beds and diets.
Can’t watch another afternoon tv ad for incontinence pads, sagging skin cream or the opium of the people shite reality/game shows with Z-list celebs.
Our aged anti-heroine is ‘challenging, rude and an enigma’ which is code for being a bit of a bitch softened (or penis-style flaccid) when the word ‘pitiful’ is whispered.
Old age certainly does not become her but her flirtatious youth did.
After the country dancing there are some even more surprising twists and turns to the story which stays gripping to the ‘bitter sweet’ end.
I did recognise Danesfield House having stayed there long after the USAF and George and Amal Clooney"s wedding party and my RAF father was stationed at Bomber Command with the Yanks at High Wycombe.
The pub down the road from Danesfield is called the Dog and Badger but is The White Hart in the book.
The Dog and Badger is now a boutique bed and breakfast.
Danesfield House is infamous for our 'grand' bar bill during our stay at the beginning on the new millennium when our nephew was food and beverage manager.
The Blue Hour is former Nailsea resident Melanie Greenwood’s brilliant debut novel and draws on her own childhood memories and time spent in the features department of the Bristol Post.
She also worked with me at the Clevedon Mercury.
So proud of all the former staff that have fine-tuned their journallist skills into writing and getting published a book - no mean feat.
* According to Wikipedia The blue hour occurs when the Sun is far enough below the horizon so that the sunlight's blue wavelengths dominate due to the Chappuis absorption caused by ozone. Since the term is colloquial, it lacks an official definition similar to dawn, dusk, and the three stages of twilight. Rather, it refers to a state of natural lighting that usually occurs around the nautical stage of the twilight period
Growing up in Nailsea with my single Muslim dad
My book review for MJ Greenwood’s novel The Blue Hour based loosely on her mad, bad ageing mother for Amazon was sadly disallowed at both attempts.
First for using a swear word and secondly for using same swear word disguised with asterisks.
My clever ploy didn’t work and now I am wondering how to get a review of Zeena Moolla’s Everything I’ve Learned About Motherhood featuring her single dad and hero Hameed past the big brother censors without using any descriptive expletives?
I should hastily add saint Hameed is as far removed from the aforementioned Blue Hour antihero as her Liverpool, England is to his Durban, South Africa.
Zeena’s honest and humorous book dangles between milk-gorged breasts, microwaved ready meals and a cup of tea served with a sweet biscuit.
Overflowing body fluids mix with political potshots at the cranially constrained mummy influencers who litter social media with their blagged freebies.
It is a must-read for anyone who either is or has been a sleep deprived parent whiling away their offsprings early years with wishes of an undisturbed few hours of sleep and an uninterrupted poo.
But between the jokes are some serious potshots at the ills of society seen from the perspective of a girl growing up in a town not known for it ethnic diversity.
Surrounded by love of her nearest and dearest Zeena’s self-help handbook epitomises the bible quote ‘give, and you will receive’ even for the non-believer.
The moral of this parenting handbook is true friends are worth their weight In bottles of Merlot and boxes of chocolates.
Zeena said: "Since I was eight, the middle kid of his three children, my dad has been a single parent and an amazing one at that.
"He’s South African-Indian, of a Muslim background, and, as he’s told me on many occasions, he arrived in the UK in 1957 unable to do much for himself. ‘You know, Zeena, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea!’ he’ll proudly tell me as he whips up his incredible prawn curry, yet to be surpassed by any other I’ve had.
"I know it’s too easy to herald single dads as heroes when far more women are raising children solo, without the same fanfare. But there’s no denying, my dad, now eighty-three (he likes to remind me of his advancing years a lot, too), does defy a lot of cultural norms.
"His own upbringing, one of 15 siblings, was much stricter than my own (although my fourteen-year-old self probably wouldn’t have agreed when I was sulkily heading home on a Friday night for a 9.30 p.m. curfew). His home life saw largely all domesticity assigned to women, while the men in his family were expected to bring home the roti.
‘Your father does all the cooking?’ one of my many aunties in South Africa would ask incredulously on every holiday there. ‘He can make chana dahl? Really? He can’t make chicken curry though? He can? Ooh, Al-laah! Your daddy is good.’
"Their faces were agog in awe, and, I could see, some pity too.
"This life, especially for a man of his background, was unheard of. There was usually some female relative – a sister or cousin, maybe – to step in and help. Truth is though, even if we’d have had any family nearby to offer support, I’m not sure he would have accepted it. My dad has always been entirely his own person, fiercely independent and a natural nonconformist.
"His childhood aversion to Madressa, the after-school Islamic classes Muslim children usually attend, exemplifies this perfectly.
"And the lengths he’d go to in order to avoid it still make me chuckle, even locking himself in the loo once to bunk off.
"According to one of my uncles, he kept saying to my grandfather, hammering on the door trying to get him out: ‘I’m making wazu, Papa!’ (Wazu being the Muslim cleansing ritual before prayer.) He was ‘making wazu’ for the duration of the Madressa class apparently and got a good bollocking when he eventually emerged.
"His political views also stood out amid his family and, shaped very much by South Africa’s apartheid, he was a big supporter of the ANC (African National Congress) at the time. While many in my dad’s family found the ANC ‘too militant’ and ‘atheist’, my father was loud and proud with his views.
"He is a believer in equality for everyone and has rarely held back from calling out discrimination. Another uncle once told me, with huge affection, that he could personally testify to this after he’d referred to a man as a ‘Mary’, an excruciating euphemism for ‘homosexual’, and my father promptly tore a strip off him.
"When he arrived in London to study law, aged twenty, after only knowing apartheid life in South Africa, he said he found the UK far more racist. While he, like every other ‘non-white’, didn’t have the right to vote in his homeland, being coldly turned away by landladies and landlords with a simple gesture to a sign – ‘No coloureds, No Irish, No dogs’ – was, in my dad’s words, deviously hostile. Immigrants were being actively encouraged to the country, only to face attitudes, abuse and signs, all without recrimination, that told them very clearly they were unwelcome.
‘At least there was no pretence in South Africa – I experienced more racism to my face in “multicultural London” than I’d ever experienced in my whole life,’ my dad huffs regularly and quite rightly."His law studies didn’t last long, and after meeting my mother in London, he soon dropped out, took an administrative job in the civil service and got married. True to his anarchist form, he rang up his mum and dad to let them know not to expect him back any time soon.
"(I like to imagine that long-distance phone call as: ‘Hello, Papa! I got married! So I’m staying in London now! OK? Hmm, what’s that? Is she Muslim? No, Catholic. Oh, and I also dropped out of law school. Why are you shouting, Papa? Can’t talk! Have to go now – I’m making wazu! Salaams, Papa! Byeee!’
"My dad assures me the phone call was nothing like that, and that my grandmother and grandfather were actually very supportive, but I prefer my version.)
"In 1981, by then living in a small town just outside Bristol, my mum and dad divorced, and my dad faced bringing up his three kids – a teenager, an eight-year-old and a seven-year-old – completely alone. When I look back now as a mother of an eight-year-old and six-year-old, with a husband who shares the parental and home responsibilities, I can easily choke up at how hardworking and selfless my father was.
"His daily life largely entailed working full-time, cooking, cleaning up, checking we’d finished our homework, and, in the days before free school dinners, making our lunches for the next day. Weekends were filled with taking us swimming, outings to the nearby pebble beach, trips to the water theme park at Weston-super-Mare and taking my brother to his ice-hockey classes – among countless other kid-orientated activities. Plus, of course, washing our clothes, ironing our school uniforms, shopping – well, you know the monologue now. The most time he took for himself was watching the Channel 4 News, usually late at night, having recorded it earlier, and, if he had any energy left, reading the newspaper.
"And while I openly eye-roll at the constant reminders of the Cup a Soup and home-made cheese-sometimes-banana sandwiches he lunched on as a cash-saving means, it’s not an exaggeration. As he was still in the civil service on a mediocre salary, there wasn’t a huge amount of money – but we wanted for nothing really. Because of the sacrifices he made. He forfeited any social life, any ‘luxuries’ for himself and yes, ‘fancy-pants’ lunches, entirely to prioritise us. And I’m afraid, yes, I did use a lot of hairspray (sorry about the ozone layer, by the way).
"So, I’m telling you all this about my dad, as this book, while written from my perspective, with my experiences, very much has his influence everywhere. His massive-hearted parenting shaped who I am and, undoubtedly, the kind of mother I am. And while my own sense of humour, quite dark on occasion I concede, might not so obviously be attributed to an 83-year-old South African-Indian Muslim man, I can assure you, he’s the biggest piss-taker I know.
"He knows how to turn any situation around with humour, and if that’s not a vital skill in parenting, I don’t know what is."
Lethal love & lust
This Nailsea friend pens her books under the name of Louise Douglas who I meet when she lived in Porlock Gardens, opposite Sandy Taylor another prolific local writer.
'Louise' describes her books as 'contemporary Gothic novels which are usually inspired by places close to where I live in the Mendips, close to Bristol in the UK, or by places I've visited, especially Italy and Sicily'.
She said: "The House by the Sea won the Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award in 2021."
"The Love of My Life, my first book, was longlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.
"My second book, Missing You, won the RNA Readers' Choice Award, and my third, The Secrets Between Us was a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read.
"The Room in the Attic due to be published in October 2021 and is a ghost story set in a Victorian asylum-turned-boarding school on Dartmoor."
Such a popular writer with a modern twist of Agatha Christie with a touch of spooky!
However, Louise's latest book is the best.
Called The House By The See it is an page-turning novel.
When I put it down I wrote to my friend: "Just finished your homo-friendly Hitchcock book.
"Really enjoyed Rebecca meets Jane Eyre and then PSYCHO all served with delicious slices of Sicilian pizza in a lush setting.
"However, first thing I would have done was kill mafioso-style the fucking mice in the piano, no mercy, and fumigated the palatial but crumbling villa.
"Really liked the way all the characters are drawn - believable yarn that would make great film."
Available on Amazon priced £8.99 in paperback.