Palestinian Walks: Notes On A Vanishing Landscape – A Review

Palestinian Walks (Shehadeh; 2008) was the winner of the Orwell Prize for political writing in 2008.

Shehadeh takes us the the tumultuous political landscape in Palestine and Israel by discussing a series of walks that he took with his wife or friends over a 30 year period. The book is beautiful, poetic and tragic at the same time. Initially the walks are full of beauty, but as the Israeli government increasingly makes life hard for Palestinian Arabs by expropriating Palestinian land and building internationally defined illegal settlements, the landscape gets ripped apart.

The walks become more difficult as the Israeli government annexes land for Israelis only and Palestinians are not allowed to enter these areas. Property and land is expropriated for Israeli use, with little or no compensation for the Palestinians. The Israeli government often claimd that the land was not occupied by the Palestinian owner because it wasn’t on a land registry and no one was in the accommodation at the time of survey. From the Palestinian perspective land ownership and property boundaries were often never formalised, they didn’t need to be, neighbours knew where  property boundaries were, and these were respected.

The walks are so descriptive of the land that I felt that I was seeing the picturesque landscape in my mind as Shehadeh walked, I could see the terraced walls and the cultivated lands, discover the primitive but loved architecture, and feel the tension between two proud nations who are trying to exist alongside each other.

However, what becomes apparent is that one nation becomes aggressive and dominant, controlling the movement, and restricting the movement and freedoms of the other. Settlements get built inside the boundaries of the 1967 Greenline Borders, making a two state solution impossible. The settlements become a blight on the land and roads, which Palestinians cannot use, scar the landscape and become defactor borders that prevent some walks from being undertaken without breaking Israeli law.

Shehadeh also explores the Oslo Accord of 1993 and 1995 between the PLO and Israel. He is scathing of both the PLO and Israeli negotiators and how both sides made it possible for Israel to further erode Palestinian rights and freedoms. Britain and its role in the Palestinian story and oppression is also discussed, as is the failure of the West to intervene to prevent the ongoing and continuous human rights abuses which Palestinians have suffered.

Overall the book kept up my interest and I enjoyed the balance between the walks and the politics, and it was nice to hear about the troubles between Israel and Palestine from a Palestinian perspective, which is often lacking in Western media.

Raja Shehadeh is the founder of Al Haq, a Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, and he is also a land and property lawyer.

Reference

Shehadeh, R; 2008; Palestinian Walks: Notes On A Vanishing Landscape; London; Profile Books Ltd

The Crucible – Review

16/03/20

Im about a third of the way through the play and I’m struggling a bit. Although I can follow the story line, I keep losing track of the people. It feels like there are too many characters introduced at the same time. (This is unlike the first few chapters of a book in which people are slowly introduced). It’s hard to remember who is who and what their role is. I do like the stage directions though and can see how the basis of a play pans out with this style of writing.

I’ve only just realised that the narration is set in the 20th century, looking back in on Salem in 1692/3. It’s taken me 40 pages to realise this. This review highlights how little I have read plays over the years. In fact, the only other play I remember reading was Death of a Salesman by the same author, when I was at school.

17/03/20

It is 5.40 am and I have been up since four. I started reading The Crucible about an hour ago and I cannot put it down. I find myself enthralled by the pace of the book. I’m gripped by the drama, and the characterisation. People are ill and cursed from witchcraft, others are cursed as witches and are being rounded up and taken to court. Naturally I have heard of the Salem witch trials, but I have never read of them before in either fiction or historical accounts. The Crucible reveals how easily an accuser can lay claim, whether this be from suspicion or a falsehood which is decried from a resentment against those whom they accuse. I’m finding it easier to follow the conversations today and am becoming more accustomed to the way in which Miller writes.

The book is too short, it’s only roughly 130 pages long. I feel that if a play follows the script exactly then it must be very short.

The pace of act three is incredible, there are twists and turns with accusations and denial. Conversation makes the flow so incredibly real. I was a witness to the proceedings of arrest and court. I saw the people and places in my mind.

The key here is the conversation. There were two environments, Proctors home before and during the court summons and arrest, and in a side room of the courts. My learning point here is conversation. People do not need to say long speeches, just brief sentences keeps the action quick. Because this is a play there are also directions into how the characters present themselves, such as anger, disbelief, how they are standing, who the are facing or addressing. The directions are a huge contribution to the rhythm of the story. I’ve certainly never given consideration to play writing, but it deeply interests me now.

The fourth act was short and rounded up the tale. The Severn women who refused to admit they were witches were to be hanged. Procter signed a confession that he had done the work of the devil and tore it up, refusing to give it to the judge. He did this because a signed confession on the church door would be interpreted as the Severn being witches. Proctor knew they were innocent, and their lack of confession was one of purity and honour. Despite the judge witnessing proctors confession he condemned him to be hanged because he tore up the confession. To my mind this makes the judge guilt of murder before God, the work of the devil itself, and judge himself should have gone to the rope.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this play, I’m surprised at just how much. When I go back to the library I will loan another play.

Reference

Millar, A; 2000; The Crucible; London; Penguin Classics

Thirteen – Book Review

Oh my gosh, I haven’t a clue how to write this review. Thirteen (Beaumont; 2008) is a very complicated book. The bizzare thing is I’ve enjoyed the book, and also felt a repulsion to it at the same time, I’ve felt gripped by the story, and yet put the book down on several occasions not wanting to read anymore. This is a duality that I’ve never experienced with a book before. I’ve continued to read it so that I could write a review for the benefit of my own creative writing (reading for writers).

The first half of the book is written in a heady or perhaps overtly interlectual manner in which I didn’t have an emotion connection, but the suspense kept me going. By the second half of the novel I was connecting more emotionally and the narrative came to light.

I believe that the author was revealing his own story, his life experience, perhaps not the same circumstances, but the same feeling as the main character, Stephen, who also had the same initials. Beaumont was definitely writing ‘what he knew’. He was a taxi driver before taking up writing as is Stephen.

The story begins with Stephen being depressed, and it appears that is because the business which he inherited from his father has collapsed. His life has lost its meaning and he has become increasing depressed and isolated. Having lost the business he finds himself unemployed. He has no idea what do for employment, and he is broke.

An old school friend Graham, who has moved to the United States is on holiday in Brighton and Stephen bumps into him. They share some of their experiences with each other, and Graham asks Stephen if he would commit to taking the work as a taxi driver for one year.

Stephen takes up the suggestion and drives all the hours he can. Taxi driving ultimately brings in the money, as Stephen is working night shifts most nights of the week.

Exhaustion creeps upon him, and he begins to have bizzare experiences. Picking up Valerie and taking her to a group she attends at a day centre. Valerie is sick with cancer. He wants to meet her again, and asks the taxi controller about the house he picked Valerie up from. She says it doesn’t exist. Stephen drives around, and sure enough it doesn’t.

Stephen comes to realise that he is zoning out when he’s exhausted at work, and when he does this Thirteen appears, and he has other strange experiences whilst he is doing so. He comes around from these experiences by being parked in a car park that’s locked, and away from where he last remembers driving.

(This review is dull and heady just like the initial part of the book.)

He continues to take Valerie to her social event when he’s zoned, but also meets a couple of  other people, Helena and Seymore, who become main characters of the novel.

These people, along with Valerie, begin to take him on a journey of self exploration, although they pop up at unexpected times, and Stephen cannot bump into them when he wishes. However, driving to number 13, he sometimes finds it there, and at other times it doesn’t exist.

On one of these occasions he knocks on the door and gets beaten up and told not to go back, and another time he seeks up to the window and witnesses a man being stabbed. He builds up the courage to return to and enter the house and he himself gets tied up and stabbed in the same manner as the witnessed stabbing.

During all of this he continues to build up a relationship with Helena. She introduces him to others, however, all but Seymour are bit part players that add dimension to the story.

Ultimately, the relationships between Stephen, Helena, Seymour and Valerie lead Stephen to a series of self realisations.

Valerie gets younger as the story unfolds and the emotional strength of the novel develops. Neither of the main characters will answer Stephens questions and he has to work out what is going on for himself.

When Valerie becomes nine years old the book has a major twist, and Stephens childhood memories begin to unfold. He and Graham had started a fire at the same age, and it turns out that the fire had killed a child called Lisa and her aunty. Valerie represents Lisa, but isn’t Lisa either.

Discussing these revealed memories with Helena, Valerie and Seymour becomes an expression of and relief from Stephen’s shame and guilt which he had blocked out throughout his life.

There is certainly a credible moral message within the book about the need to face, accept and move on from the past so that a happy life can proceed.

Am I glad that I continued to read the book? Yes. Would I read it again? Definitely not. It was hard going, hard to get into and I felt that the ending was rushed. I couldn’t even give a rating out of 10 for this book. Not because it doesn’t deserve one, but because the writing style felt inconsistent. To be gripped by a book that I put down for a werk and not wanting to read anymore is highly confusing for me.

Reference.

Beaumont, S; 2008; Thirteen; Newcastle Upon Tyne; Myrmidon

Assignment One

The Brief; You already have a body of work – congratulations!

Get out all the work you’ve done in Part One and read through it carefully. This will include:

  • The work you’ve done for the exercises in projects 1 to 4
  • All your extra freewrites
  • Your notebook work

Choose two or three pieces of work from this. They don’t all have to be the same length but they should be the pieces that resonate with you the most.

You don’t have to write a story, a poem, or any specific form for this assignment. You just have to show your tutor your writing – what you’ve already been doing.. If your writing by hand, you now need to transfer your work to a Word Document or similar. Submit approximately 1,000 words for this assignment. Use the word count facility to check how long your pieces are. Use the spellcheck too (but with care, as it can substitute a completely different word from the one you intended!). If your chosen pieces don’t make 1,000 words, you now have the choice of extending them. Only do this if you have some good ideas though. Otherwise, include a fourth piece to make up the word count.

Submit your work as soon as you have a fair copy. You may be surprised at the words of encouragement you receive, even if you thought your piece was not all that good.

Sophie Lives, from exercise 1.3

Sophie was horrified with the reality that she was in A and E and having to wait for a psychiatric assessment, she felt ashamed of herself and guilty for wasting so much of the doctors and nurses time. She had thoughts that other people were seriously ill and that they needed the medical attention that she had taken away from them. Waiting for the psychiatrist was daunting, seconds seemed to drag by. All she could do was think. She had never tried to end her life before, despite thoughts of this being a constant companion for many years. How could she explain what she had done, or the harm that she had suffered at the hands of Mark. Initially she hadn’t considered it to be domestic abuse, like thousands of other women she had always believed Mark’s words about how useless and pathetic she was, and how he had to put up with her failings. Deep in her core she knew he was right, and these beliefs were so intense tonight. Only a failure of a human being would try to end their own life. She knew the psychiatrist would judge her and believe it was all her fault.

Winter is a Bastard, from exercise 1.6

Spring is most definitely in the air despite the periods of relentless rain. Crocus and daffodils are pushing their necks out of the ground, and they are adding glorious pockets of colour to my days. Such joy. My mood is improving slowly but surely, I’m isolating less, and I’m having more clarity of thought. Gratitude is what I’m feeling as I write this short piece of freewriting (I adore freewriting, it’s shown me that I do have lots to write).

But winter is a bastard, an effing c of a nightmare that I often struggle to get through!

This year my mood dropped at the end of December, and my thoughts darkened. I began to obsess about suicide, and I researched methods on the Internet, and purchased some pills which I believed would end my life.

Motivation and pleasure from activities deserted me and I felt hopeless. Situations which involved close contact with others was a struggle and I avoided people. Ultimately I was overwhelmed and tried yet again to take my life. Disappointed that I didn’t succeed, but the disappointment that I tried to end my life pushed me into accepting help. I’m now attending a therapeutic day unit. It’s a short term program for a few weeks, enough to get me through until I am able to keep myself occupied and productive.

My energy always improves in the spring. If only I could hold back the self destruction long enough to get me through to the lighter, brighter and warmer days.

My thoughts are much clearer now, and I am enjoying my studies. I had my coursework for over a month before I could even open the folder. Eventually I realised I had to just begin the first exercise, I couldn’t wait until my motivation returned, I had to simply take action without expectation. I’m so grateful that I did because I find it has brought joy and satisfaction into my daily life.

I’m looking out for signs of spring now. I’m not waiting for motivation I’m acting as if I’m motivated, and I’m finding signs of spring right now. Recovery is action. Hope is important but I can’t hope my way into feeling better, I have to put the effort into hunting for joy and gratitude.

Rabbit Hide and Seek, from exercise 1.6

I was running through a dark forest when

A rabbit did appear

A ball of white cute fluffyness

I’m sure his look was queer

He bounded right up too my feet

And then he looked at me

And beckoned me to follow him

And hid behind a tree

“I can’t play hide and seek with you”

I really don’t have time”

His face became so sorrowfull

I said “oh dear, yes, fine”

So we played a little game or two

The rabbit he did win

I thanked him for the game we played

And his smile became a grin

Book Review – The Shepherds Crown

Terry Pratchet wrote The Shepherd’s Crown whilst he was dying, and fittingly one of his most loved characters, Granny Weatherwax died at the beggining of the story.

Her death left a gap in the barrier between Discworld and the land which the elves live. She past her cottage and roles as lead witch to Tiffany Aching.

The elf Queen, Nightshade, has her wings torn off and is thrown out of the elf kingdom by Peaseblossom. He did this because he felt that Nightshade had become to soft on goblins, and that she should be organising an attempt to take over Discworld now that the barriers were weaker.

Tiffany struggles with meeting her duties in Lance and on the Chalk. The Nac Nac Feegles live on the Chalk, and they also have a duty to look out for Tiffany. Nac Nac Feegles are blue, 7 inches tall, and they speak with a Scottish accent. They love to drink and fight.

The Nac Nac Feegles reluctantly agree to Tiffany’s request for them to guard Nightshade, who Tiffany refuses to kill because she is injured. She hopes to convert the elf Queen to understanding humanity and developing a cooperative attitude rather than a hostile one.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey, who left home due to bullying  from his father, wishes to become a witch under Tiffany”s guidance.

As the elves begin to prepare for war Tiffany calls all of the witches together to prepare to defend Discworld and banish the elves forever. Geoffrey unites the local men and they develop weapons to prepare for the war. Elves are harmed my metal, so they build a catapult and gather scraps of iron to fling at the elves.

As Geoffrey and the men defend Lancre, Tiffany, the witches and the Nac Mac Feegles defend the chalk. At the start of the war Peaseblossom kills Nightshade, but the are ultimately beaten when the King of the elves turns up, and overthrows Peaseblossom.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were believable and my imagination was gripped throughout. I could picture the different people and events in my mind. There were moments of laughter, excitement, compassion, sadness and dislike. I love the humour in Pratchet’s writing.

Pratchet, T; 2016; The Shepherd’s Crown; London; Corgi books.

Richard Keys

Richard516716

Assignment 1

 

 

Review – The Better Picture Guide To Still Life And Close Up Photography

Buselle, M; 1999; The Better Picture Guide To Still Life And Close Up Photography; Crans-Pres-Celigny; RotoVision

Buselle is a film photographer and throughout the book he provides technical details about each presented photo – lens, filter, camera format and type of film. I can relate to lens, filter and camera format, however, the type of film I Kodachrome, Velvia is new to me, but fascinating none the less. My assumption is that the type of film (not its speed) combined with the filter works together in the way white balance does in digital photography. Film speed and ISO are the same.

The book covers different aspects of still life that includes the natural environment, food, flowers and plants, macro, and staged photos.

I found the sections that discuss lighting of huge benefit, especially as there are the occasional lighting plans that have been included as diagrams. It’s easy for me to lose some detail in photography because I have a personal preference for high contrast, but I can see how Busselle’s use of lighting and reflectors eases back the shadows and permits more detail to be seen.

Key learning points

  • Minimise colours where possible and appropriate to do so
  • Use a background which has a complimentary colour and texture
  • If you can’t find a suitable background then make one
  • If a multitude of colours are present i.e. a market stall then use a large aperture to reduce distractions and emphasise the colours
  • Take time to consider what it is you’re trying to present (he gives a pictorial example of the front of a wooden boat, it’s lettering and the reflection. Using the whole boat would be a chocolate box picture, whereas a tight crop emphasises the lettering on the wood and in the water)
  • Warm up filters (white balance set to shade) enable the photographer to make use of the sun and reduce the blues
  • Composition can make or break a still life, reduce subjects and props to a bare minimum, and introduce additional items with caution. Compliment the subject, don’t detract from it
  • Any subject can be turned into still life or macro. Move items around, change your position and the angle of the lens, experiment
  • Aperture, aperture, aperture. Match the aperture to the subject and the background, avoid distraction, enhance and compliment