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Wednesday, May 26th

Reading for pleasure

My work naturally involves lots of reading, but for years I’ve found it difficult or impossible to find the time to read just for pleasure unless I'm on vacation. So one of the high points I always look forward to when I can take some time off is to do just that. My break for the last few weeks in Tropical North Queensland gave me the time to enjoy a few excellent books by some of my favourite novelists.

Ordinary Thunderstorms

The first was William Boyd’s ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’'. I was lucky enough to discover Boyd's work early on and, as well as his first short story collection, I read his first three novels - 'A Good Man in Africa', 'An Ice Cream War' and 'Stars and Bars' - in the first few years after I'd moved to the Netherlands. Since then, I've snapped up each new novel as it was published. While he's never really disappointed, those first novels remain particular favourites. ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’' certainly didn't disappoint either, but I was pleased to read it on the level of 'just' a great page-turning thriller. He makes this easy, as it opens almost like a classic Hitchcock film script. There were hints at deeper meanings, such as the hero's name, Adam Kindred, a pretty strong hint that the reader could identify with him as an 'everyman' figure, but my first goal was escapist reading for pleasure, and that's exactly how I enjoyed it. A definite candidate for a movie adaptation.

A Star Called Henry

Having happily relaxed into fiction enjoyment mode, I turned to another big favourite, Roddy Doyle, to ensure the reading pleasure would continue. By a happy accident of fate, although I'd bought ‘A Star Called Henry’ when it was first published as a hardback some years ago, I hadn't got round to reading it yet.

Oh Play That Thing

Like his first three novels, which make up the Barrytown Trilogy, ‘A Star Called Henry’ was the first of a new trilogy, The Last Roundup'. Its concluding novel, ‘The Dead Republic’, was published recently, so I was able to take these and the second, ‘Oh, Play That Thing’ all together as a complete trilogy and read them one after the other by the pool.

The Dead Republic

The first brought back memories of his brilliant 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha', while the second was in parts reminiscent of Joseph O'Connor's ‘Star of the Sea’. All three trace the long and exciting life of Henry Smart against the background of Ireland throughout the 20th century, and mix fictional with real-life characters, including Michael Collins, Louis Armstrong and John Ford. If you haven't read any of the three, I can heartily recommend reading them one after the other in sequence.


I knew I'd have my ideal collection of books to take with me when Ian McEwan's ‘Solar’ was published just in time for me to include it. ‘Solar’ addresses the topic of global warming but, unusually for McEwan and perhaps surprisingly given the gravity of the subject, it is in large part a satirical, if not comic, novel. One of McEwan's many strengths as a novelist is his mastery of realism, so I was intrigued to hear the comments he made before ‘Solar’ was published about the fact that it would be a comedy, albeit a rather black one. "I actually find novels that are determined to be funny at every turn quite oppressive," he explained. "But comedy in a more general sense, yes. It lets you play round at the edges of realism. You can be a little more breezy, slightly push the boat out on plot, be slightly less sober in evaluations of the possible." I enjoyed it immensely.

Friday, April 23rd

No worries...

As many of our clients and partners know, my wife and I started a tradition a few years ago of taking our 'summer' holidays over Chirstmas and the New Year in our favourite part of Australia. This serves a triple purpose - we get to miss some of the Dutch winter, we can enjoy the summer down under, and the inclusion of the holiday season means it disrupts Oake Communications' services to our clients as little as possible.

Personal circumstances meant we had to cancel our original plans for last December / January. I took on additional annual report projects, and we made plans to reschedule our break. After a week of Icelandic volcano ash worries, it's finally time for 'no worries' again. We're heading off to Hong Kong tomorrow on our way to tropical Queensland. I'll be checking and responding to e-mails each day, and agreeing arrangements for projects from May 24th when I'm back, and some other projects can be handled by Oake Communications' network partners. There won't be further posts to this blog while I'm away, but I'll be regularly updating my me.com photo gallery. Best wishes to all our site visitors, and I'll be back with a May post here at the end of next month.

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